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Zim postpones bail application of rights activist

The bail application for detained Zimbabwean human rights defender Farai Maguwu has been postponed until June 21 — the same day the Zimbabwe government is to attend a meeting of the Kimberly Process (KP) in Israel to discuss its trade in so-called ‘blood diamonds”.

Maguwu, director of the Centre for Research and Development, has been monitoring alleged human rights abuses in the Marange diamond fields by Zimbabwean soldiers. He was expected to submit his findings at the meeting.

The Zimbabwe controversy is expected to dominate next week’s discussion, with KP members divided on whether or not the country should be allowed to resume diamond exports.

In 2009 the KP banned Zimbabwe from selling gems from Marange until law and order was restored in the area, and the military was withdrawn.

Abbey Chikane — a South African businessman appointed as a KP certification scheme monitor on Zimbabwe — recently recommended that the country should now be allowed to export diamonds from the area because it had fulfilled the criteria required by the KP.

Maguwu was arrested on June 3, the same day Chikane left Zimbabwe, shortly after the two had met. Human rights activists told M&G that Maguwu provided Chikane with evidence of violence and diamond smuggling by soldiers in Marange.

Asked by the M&G on Thursday if he thought there was a link between the meeting and Maguwu’s subsequent arrest, Chikane declined to comment, saying that the matter was “sub judice”.

But he added that one of the documents given to him by Maguwu “may have been obtained in an unconventional manner”.

Dewa Mavhinga, regional information and advocacy coordinator for Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, said that when Maguwu was arrested, authorities charged him under the criminal code “for the publication or communication of falsehoods prejudicial to the state”.

“The police may lay additional charges,” Mavhinga said, “but they have not done so yet”.

He added that “the state is vigorously opposed to the granting of bail”.

Maguwu’s lawyers asked the High Court to release the human rights activist from custody and asserted that his life was in danger.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights released a statement on Wednesday claiming that: “some unidentified people, who hosted him [Maguwu] after he was booked out of remand prison on Friday 11 June 2010 until his return on Tuesday 15 June 2010 had altered the medication which he was taking to cure a sore throat, chest infections and fever”.

Maguwu’s lawyer said the “unidentified people” substituted Maguwu’s medication with “medicine of unknown origins”.

According to a report by SW Radio Africa News on Thursday, Maguwu was later taken to hospital under police guard and is “receiving treatment for a serious throat infection that developed soon after his arrest”.

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Lisa Steyn
Lisa Steyn is a business reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She holds a masters degree in journalism and media studies from Wits University. Her areas of interest range from energy and mining to financial services and telecommunication. When she is not poring over annual reports, Lisa can usually be found pottering about the kitchen.

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