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Tsvangirai's Detained Staffers Granted $500 Bail Each

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai
A Harare High Court judge Wednesday ordered the release on bail of four staff members from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's research department accused of illegally investigating some top government officials.

High Court judge Chinembiri Bhunu ordered principal director of Mr. Tsvangirai's research department, Thabani Mpofu, researchers Felix Matsinde, Mehluli Tshuma and former Harare city councillor Warship Dumba, to deposit $500 bail each.

They are accused of illegally investigating Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri, Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo, Attorney General Johannes Tomana and other senior government officials.

Prosecutors say their actions amounted to impersonating public officials, adding that the accused violated a section of the Official Secrets Act.

They were arrested together with top human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, who is out on bail on charges of obstructing the course of justice.

Mtetwa was arrested at Mpofu's residence when she demanded a search warrant from the police who did not have one.
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Judge Bhunu also ordered Mpofu to deposit a further $500 in a second charge of possessing an unlicensed firearm which was discovered by police officers during the raid on his house on March 17.

They were ordered to surrender their travel documents with the clerk of court, continue to reside at their given addresses, not to interfere with witnesses and investigations as well as to report once a week at Harare Criminal Investigation Department’s Law and Order Section.

In his ruling, the judge said magistrate Marehwanazvo Gofa misdirected herself when she denied the four bail last week.

Justice Bhunu slammed the judicial officers saying they should always bear in mind that presumption of innocence still operates in favor of the accused at every stage of the proceedings before conviction.

Magistrate Gofa had denied bail on grounds that the accused were facing serious offenses which interfere with public safety and state security. But justice Bhunu slammed the magistrate saying her reasons were "scant, illogical, inconsistent and strange".

One of the defense attorneys, Chris Mhike, welcomed the High Court ruling.