A judge in Zimbabwe has freed on bail a human rights activist jailed for more than five weeks on allegations of passing false information on diamond-mining violations to the international
diamond control body.
Judge Mawadze Gurainesu on Monday dismissed claims by state prosecutors that activist Farai Maguwu could interfere with witnesses called in police investigations into his conduct.
Bail had been rejected at several previous hearings after prosecutors alleged he gave out false information on rights violations and killings by police and troops in the eastern diamond district.
Human rights groups protested Maguwu’s continued detention since June 3 and said he was denied medical attention and mistreated in jail.
Gurainesu said police did not say when they would finish their investigation. But he said police reported long delays in gathering evidence from officials of the Kimberley Process control body outside Zimbabwe.
He said the slow progress of the investigations prejudiced Maguwu.
“His liberty should not be trampled upon on flimsy reasons,” the judge said.
Maguwu was freed on $1 500 bail on condition that he surrender his passport, report daily to police and remain within 40km of his home in the eastern city of Mutare.
He denied charges of possessing false information on killings, torture and the names of perpetrators along with stolen state security documents, offences carrying a penalty of up to 20 years in jail.
Zimbabwe’s diamond mining industry, which top politicians and military chiefs have also alleged to be corrupt, is scheduled to again come under review Wednesday at a meeting of the World Diamond Council in St Petersburg, Russia.
Maguwu’s detention contributed to a deadlock over whether to allow Zimbabwe to sell its diamonds on the world market at a meeting of the Kimberley Process control body in Israel last month.
The oversight body’s regional monitor Abbey Chikane had
recommended that Zimbabwe’s diamonds be certified for world sales,
as Zimbabwe had met the body’s minimum standards for diamond
Documents allegedly produced by Maguwu and his Centre for Research and Development purported to contain hospital records, mortuary reports and burial orders of victims and interviews with survivors who identified “at least eight perpetrators of atrocities”, mostly senior police officers, in the Chiadzwa diamond district.
The documents, which prosecutors said contained false information, also reported on victims who testified to abuse by police and soldiers and sightings of dead bodies in the diamond fields.
At a previous bail hearing, a different High Court judge said prosecutors alleged Maguwu made a living from publishing false information detrimental to his country.
Human rights organisations have harshly opposed international sales of alleged “blood diamonds” from Zimbabwe.
The mines ministry, controlled by President Robert Mugabe’s party in a fragile coalition with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the former opposition leader, denies wrongdoing and accuses human
rights groups of “peddling falsehoods” over rights violations.
Mugabe last week vowed to go ahead with diamond sales without certification from the world control body. – Sapa-AP