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Zimbabwe Court Grants Bail To Six Opposition Activists, Frees Three

  • Jonga Kandemiiri

A Zimbabwe high court judge Tuesday granted bail to six of 21 opposition members held for the most part since late March under charges ranging from sabotage to banditry to giving or receiving paramilitary training, but only three were freed.

Justice Lawrence Kamocha ordered the release of Piniel Denga, Philip Mabika, Peter Chikwati, Raymond Bake, Arthur Mhizha and Jacob Muvavi on $10 million bail each - but police continued to hold Mabika, Chikwati and Mhizha on separate charges.

Denga, Muvavi and Bake, released from remand jail, must now report three times a week to the law and order section of the Criminal Investigation Department.

The three men held despite the granting of bail were remanded on charges that they received paramilitary training across the border in South Africa.

A total of 18 officials and activists of the Movement for Democratic Change faction led by MDC founder Morgan Tsvangirai remained behind bars in Harare.

Lawyer Alec Muchadehama, representing them, told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that if the courts continue to consider charges on their merits, all of his opposition clients will eventually receive bail and be freed.

Government prosecutors alleged that the group of about 30 MDC members arrested in a March 28 raid on the party's Harare headquarters had a hand in firebombing attacks on police posts and other targets in February and March. The opposition says state security conjured up the charges to justify a campaign of repression.

Elsewhere, the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal by two leading figures in the Bulawayo-based activist group Women of Zimbabwe Arise which challenged the constitutionality of parts of the Criminal Law and Codification Reform Act.

Jenni Williams and Magodhonga Mahlangu were arrested June 6 while demanding the release of 25 WOZA members then held by police in Bulawayo.

Police charged the two under the Criminal Law and Codification Reform Act saying they had interfered with the ordinary convenience or comfort of the public.

A lawyer for the two women, Kossam Ncube, told reporter Carole Gombakomba that a magistrate in Bulawayo had agreed with his argument that sections of the law are too broadly written and as a result may violate individual constitutional rights.

Williams said that while she and her co-defendant are thrilled at the ruling, they know it will be a long time before the supreme court rules and that it is very possible that the government may not recognize and respond to a ruling in their favor.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...

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