International non-governmental organizations Monday protested the arrest and continued detention by Zimbabwean authorities of Farai Maguwu, director of the Center for Research and Development in Mutare, who recently issued a report alleging the illegal export of thousands of carats of diamonds from the nearby Marange alluvial field.
The researcher faces charges of publishing falsehoods in connection with the report issued last week.
Maguwu late Monday remained in the custody of police in Harare, the capital, after surrendering to police late last week in Mutare, capital of eastern Manicaland province, in which the Marange field is situated.
Human Rights Watch, Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada issued a joint statement condemning what they termed Maguwu's persecution. They said his Center for Research and Development has played a central role in exposing human rights violations in Marange. They said such harassment is unacceptable and must stop.
Maguwu was arrested soon after meeting with Abbey Chikane, Kimberly Process Certification Scheme monitor for Zimbabwe, who before leading Zimbabwe said the country was on track for certification of Marange stones.
Partnership Africa Canada Executive Director Bernard Taylor told the VOA Studio 7 LiveTalk program Monday that something is "seriously wrong" with the approach that the Kimberly Process is taking in Zimbabwe.
"We conclude that the process is faulty. There's something seriously wrong with it," Taylor said. "We are very skeptical about the process that's currently happening and we think the KP should take a very strong position on this and in fact, we believe Zimbabwe should be suspended from the KP."
Taylor said it appeared there was a direct link between Maguwu's meeting with Chikane and his arrest. Chikane dismissed as nonsensical reports that Maguwu had accused him of setting him up to be arrested.
The state-controlled Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation late Monday reported that Chikane has already handed a report to the Zimbabwean government saying the country is on the verge of receiving approval for certification of diamonds from Marange, potentially clearing the way for Harare to sell stockpiled diamonds.
Mines Minister Obert Mpofu was quoted as saying the report showed the government was working hard to comply with Kimberly Process regulations, adding his ministry has already invited Chikane back to Zimbabwe to finalize procedures for certification of diamonds from the Marange field.
Attorney Tinoziva Bere, representing Maguwu, told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that Maguwu has been issued with a warned-and-cautioned statement and that he would be arraigned Tuesday morning.
Bere said he was told that after arraignment Maguwu would be remanded back to police in Mutare.
In the tightly guarded Marange alluvial diamond zone, meanwhile, local families given two weeks to get ready for relocation from the military-controlled area remained in limbo without word on the timing of the move.
Shamiso Mtisi, a lawyer for the Chiadzwa Community Development Trust, said his organization is concerned the families will be dispossessed and dumped on a farm without essential infrastructure or amenities.