Zimbabwe human rights activist and University of Zimbabwe lecturer Munyaradzi Gwisai, and five other social rights activists, were on Monday found guilty of conspiracy to commit public violence after they watched and discussed Arab Spring news broadcasts last February.
Authorities said the group was plotting Egyptian-style uprisings to topple President Robert Mugabe’s government.
Handing down his judgment Harare magistrate Kudakwashe Jarabhini, said he had found Gwisai and his co-accused Hopewell Gumbo, Welcome Zimuto, Tatenda Mombeyarara, Antonetta Choto and Edson Chakuma, guilty of conspiracy to commit public violence.
Gwisai, 43, and his five co-accused were arrested in February 2011 with 40 other people after authorities said they were plotting “Egyptian-style” uprisings to topple Mr. Mugabe’s government.
They were originally charged with treason, but that was altered to a lesser charge and the 40 others had their charges dropped altogether.
Jarabini dismissed defense claims by the group that they did not recall mentioning both President Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai during their February 19 meeting last year. He said that was not enough to prove that they did not plan to topple the Harare administration.
The state alleged during the trial, that ended last week in the capital, that the group met in the city and watched videos of the north African uprisings. They also discussed plans to burn buildings and vehicles in Harare, prosecutors alleged, adding they accused Mr. Mugabe of failing to run the country’s economy while Tsvangirai was said to be a stooge of the West.
Gwisai told VOA 7 that he’s not shaken by the ruling. De fence attorney Alec Muchadehama says he’s going to appeal the conviction.
Hordes of activists packed the courtroom late for the ruling. The case continues Tuesday for mitigation and sentencing.
Commenting, legal analyst Matshobana Ncube tells reporter Chris Gande that the six accused people are likely to get a maximum sentence of ten years or community service for their alleged crime.