Zimbabwean researcher and activist Farai Maguwu appeared before a magistrate in Harare on Tuesday to face charges that he published false information prejudicial to the state in connection with the controversial Marange diamond field in Manicaland province where human rights and other abuses have been alleged.
State's attorney Phyllis Zvenyika told the court that police received information May 26 suggesting Maguwu wrote documents which contained false information on mining activities in the Marange field and alleged violations of the human rights of unauthorized diamond panners by police and the military.
Zvenyika said this prompted police to search Maguwu’s home and office where such documents were found. She said the documents contained statistics on alleged victims of human rights abuses in Marange. She said police found e-mails from a London-based human rights activist who has been critical of Harare on Marange.
Attorney Tinoziva Bere, representing Maguwu, told the court that his client had been denied food and medical attention while in police custody. Fellow defense team member Trust Maanda asked the court to release Maguwu from remand, saying the state had provided no evidence to back up the charges.
Maanda challenged the state to prove Maguwu had provided such information to anyone and to prove the likelihood that transmission of such information would prejudice the state’s economic interests.
He added that the section of law under which Maguwu was charged was being appealed to the Supreme Court.
State counsel Zvenyika said she was not ready to respond and defenders demanded the state do so immediately. But the magistrate adjourned the case until Wednesday to give the state time to prepare a response.
Defender Tinoziva Bere told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that the state’s request for time to respond was a stalling tactic to keep Maguwu, who was taken into custody last Thursday, behind bars.
Kimberly Process monitor for Zimbabwe Abbey Chikane, meanwhile, was reported to have provided the government with a copy of his report on the country's progress meeting Kimberly standards. Wire services reported that the document states that Zimbabwe has “satisfied minimum requirements” for Kimberly Process certification, which would clear the way for diamonds from Marange to be sold into the international marketplace.
But international activists say that given persistent reports of human rights abuses in the Marange diamond field and illegal exports of Marange stones, Kimberly should not grant certification but instead suspend Harare.
Executive director Bernard Taylor of Ottawa, Canada, based group Partnership Africa Canada said Monday that there was something "seriously wrong" with Kimberly's approach if it issued a favorable report.
In Zimbabwe, the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition urged the Kimberley Process to conduct an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Maguwu’s arrest – in particular whether its monitor played a role.
VOA Studio 7 correspondent Irwin Chifera reported from Harare.