A Zimbabwe High Court Judge on Wednesday said the treason case against activists arrested last month while watching videos of protests in Egypt and Tunisia is weak and ordered the six defendants to be released on US$2,000 bail apiece.
Granting bail to Munyaradzi Gwisai and five others, Justice Samuel Kudya said the state evidence failed to support charges that the accused were trying to emulate events in Tunisia and Egypt that saw long-time presidents losing political power.
“The suggestion of endangering peace and security is again bald and unsubstantiated. In my view, all the applicants are suitable candidates for admission to bail,” Kudya ruled to cries and jubilation among friends and family of the accused present in court.
Correspondent Thomas Chiripasi reported that the judge ordered Gwisai, Antoinette Choto, Tatenda Mombeyarara, Edson Chakuma, Hopewell Gumbo and Welcome Zimuto freed on conditions including surrender of passports and weekly reporting to police.
The six are charged with treason or trying to subvert a constitutional government.
Elsewhere, signaling a continued crackdown on non-governmental organizations, police in Harare late Tuesday raided the offices of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, a civil society umbrella group, saying they were looking for subversive material.
Police also searched the residence of Crisis Coalition Director Mcdonald Lewanika, confiscating Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition T-shirts and fliers from both locations.
The police action followed Lewanika's detention and interrogation earlier Tuesday after his arrest in Harare satellite town Chitungwiza over the weekend for distributing printed materials. He later paid an admission-of-guilt fine of US$20.
Crisis Coalition Programs Manager Pedzisai Ruhanya told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that activists believe the crackdown is meant to silence NGOs opposed to President Robert Mugabe and his former ruling party, ZANU-PF.
A Harare magistrate dropped charges against National Constitutional Assembly Chairman Lovemore Madhuku alleging he took part in an unlawful protest in 2004.
Madhuku’s lawyer, Alec Muchadehama, argued that the charge brought before the court was that his client organized the 2004 demonstration, but the summons charge was for participating. Consequently, the magistrate dropped the summons charge.
Madhuku said the state may launch a new prosecution by way of summons.
In the Matebeleland region, the Bulawayo Agenda has launched a campaign to collect a million signatures on a petition asking the three unity government principals to restore peace. Bulawayo Agenda director Anastasia Moyo said the petition is a response to escalating political violence, selective arrests of senior members of the Movement for Democratic Change and the deployment of soldiers in rural areas.
Moyo told VOA Studio 7 reporter Patience Rusere that organizers of the campaign hope the petition will show Zimbabwe's leaders how much the people of the country want peace, thereby spurring them to keep the level of violence from escalating.