Zimbabwe: Lawyers Denied Prison Access to Sikhala, Mahere, Chin'ono

Hopewell Chin'ono (file photo).
18 January 2021

Lawyers representing incarcerated journalist Hopewell Chin'ono, senior MDC Alliance officials, Fadzayi Mahere and Job Sikhala, were at the weekend denied access, by prison officials, to their clients detained at the notorious Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison.

The trio is facing charges of publishing falsehoods after tweeting that an infant died on the spot after a Harare police officer had struck it with a baton two weeks ago.

Sikhala, the MDC Alliance deputy chairperson and Chin'ono were denied bail last week at the Harare Magistrates' Court while Mahere, the opposition party's spokesperson is back at the same courts this Monday for her bail application.

However, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) raised alarm at the weekend after for two consecutive days they were blocked getting access to the three in prison for lawyer-client confidential briefings and also to bring them food, including water, which is scarce at the high security facility.

Last week, prison officials had committed the lawyers would have access to their clients as long as they produced Covid-19 negative certificates. However, they were blocked from entering the prison at the main gate.

"We are concerned that today (Saturday) lawyers representing Chin'ono, Mahere and Hon. Sikhala were denied access to their clients at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison even though they presented Covid-19 test results showing they are negative as demanded by ZPCS on Friday," ZLHR said.

"Surprisingly, other people visiting other prisoners could be seen being allowed access to inmates."

ZLHR director Roselyn Hanzi said prison officials at Chikurubi Prison were applying the law selectively to punish the trio for political reasons.

"Very, very selective application of the so-called "Directives", lawyers for Mahere, Chin'ono and Sikhala asked to provide Covid19 certificates. Once produced, ZPCS changes goal posts. A gross violation of section 50 of the Constitution," she said Sunday.

Doug Coltart, a human rights lawyer said prison officials denying lawyers access to their clients are in breach of a High Court order issued last year when Sikhala, Chin'ono and Transform Zimbabwe leader Jacob Ngarivhume were arrested over the #31JulyMovement anti-corruption protests.

"Hopewell Chin'ono, Job Sikhala and Fadzayi Mahere are being denied access to their lawyers and to their own food (to which they're entitled to). Prison authorities are defying a court order we previously obtained on this issue the last time it happened," he said.

When NewZimbabwe.com reached Zimbabwe Prison Correctional Services for comment, the spokesperson Peter Chaparanganda could neither deny nor confirm the nightmare the trio is going through in prison at the hands of prison officials.

"Can you email your questions to us? I will need to find out first. I cannot discuss this issue without facts on the ground. May you put your questions down and send to us via our email and will respond to you?" Chaparanganda said.

NewZimbabwe.com had not received any response at the time of publishing.

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