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Judge Refuses To Free Zimbabwe Activist as NGOs Challenge Kimberly Report


International human rights groups meanwhyile were challenging a report from the Kimberly Process monitor for Zimbabwe saying Harare has made enough progress to be certified to sell controversial Marange diamonds into world markets

A Zimbabwean magistrate on Thursday turned down an application by lawyers for Mutare activist Farai Maguwu for his release from police custody, saying there was reasonable suspicion Maguwu had published or communicated false information about the Marange diamond field prejudicial to state interests.

But the same magistrate released Movement for Democratic Change breakaway faction leader Job Sikhala from remand, dismissing charges he had illegally organized a public meeting.

Magistrate Donald Ndirowei dismissed the application by Maguwu's lawyers asking that their client not be put on remand. Ndirowei said the state had provided sufficient evidence in support of the charges against Maguwu, the director of the Center for Research and Development in Mutare, alleging that he gave confidential state documents to Kimberly Process monitor for Zimbabwe Abbey Chikane and also published such material.

The documents concerned alleged human rights violations in the Marange diamond field by state security forces and the military. VOA Studio 7 correspondent Thomas Chiripasi reported from Harare.

Meanwhile, international human rights groups were challenging Chikane's report saying Harare has made enough progress to be certified to sell controversial Marange diamonds into world markets.

Global Witness said state-sponsored violence and human rights abuses are still taking place in the diamond field, contrary to claims made in a report prepared by the Kimberly monitor and leaked to state media.

Global Witness spokeswoman Annie Dunnebacke told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that her organisation has serious concerns about the credibility of the report, in which Chikane reportedly recommended that diamonds from Marange be certified for export sale because some shortcomings in Marange have been addressed.

Human Rights Watch researcher Tiseke Kasambala said that in fact Zimbabwe should be suspended as a member of the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme until all rights issues in Marange have been resolved.

Dunnebacke said the Kimberly monitoring arrangement covering Marange should be suspended immediately and no exports of Marange diamonds permitted until Harare provides credible assurances that individuals who provide information to the Kimberley Process will be protected rather than prosecuted, as in Maguwu's case.

Chikane has acknowledged that after receiving documents from Maguwe which he believed had been improperly obtained from state security sources, he turned the documents over to a Cabinet committee on Marange. NGOs have denounced this action as a betrayal that will discourage potential whistleblowers in future.

Political commentator Paul Rumema-Chimhosva commented that the MDC formation led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai should take the lead in calling for the Kimberly Process to refuse to certify diamonds from Marange until a legitimate government that will account for national resources has been put in place.

Reached by Studio 7, Chikane said he was surprised international rights groups were already criticizing his report, noting that he was set to meet with them and other stakeholders next week to discuss his conclusions.

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