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Top Zimbabwe Human Rights Lawyer, Tsvangirai Staffers Denied Bail

  • Thomas Chiripasi

Prominent human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa

Prominent human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa

Prominent human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa and four staffers of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's office were Wednesday denied bail by a Harare magistrate.

Ms. Mtetwa is accused of obstructing the course of justice while employees of the prime minister's research department are alleged to have investigated some senior government officials.

Harare magistrate Marehwanazvo Gofa on Wednesday ruled that Mtetwa and four employees of Mr. Tsvangirai's research department should remain in jail because, he said, they are likely to interfere with police investigations if they are released on bail.

Gofa went on to say that the accused face very serious offenses and this might induce them to abscond trial.

Mtetwa is accused of shouting at police officers Sunday while they searched the house of Thabani Mpofu, one of the four members of Mr. Tsvangirai's research department.

Mr. Mpofu and three other staffers are being accused of investigating several government officials, including Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri, Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo and Attorney General Johannes Tomana.

The prosecutors say the information that the four were gathering violates the Official Secrets Act and that the act of investigating the officials amounts to impersonation of police officers.

Mtetwa and the prime minister’s staffers deny the charges.

One of the defense attorneys, Dzimbahwe Chimbga, said the defense team will now approach the high court to seek bail for their clients.

Director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, Abel Chikomo, said the arrest of Mtetwa and Mr. Tsvangirai’s staffers, as well as arrests of several members of human rights organizations, are an indication that elections expected sometime this year may not be peaceful.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe on Tuesday announced to the world that voters overwhelmingly approved its new draft constitution. On Wednesday, some organizations opposed to the document or the referendum process spoke out.

National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) chairman Lovemore Madhuku told reporters that his organization will continue with its campaign for a people-driven constitution, despite the "yes" votes in Saturday's referendum of more than three million Zimbabweans for the draft constitution compiled by the parliamentary select committee.

Madhuku said the NCA's campaign will get into full swing after the elections.

In reaction to the NCA's criticism, Zanu-PF COPAC co-chairman Paul Mangwana, said COPAC is happy with the draft it produced and dismissed the NCA as attention seekers.

Zanu-PF and the two MDC formations in the unity government all campaigned for the draft charter to be approved, while most opposition parties and some non-governmental organizations urged Zimbabweans to reject the document.
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