Court frees 38 Zimbabweans charged over Egypt talk

A Zimbabwean magistrate’s court on Monday freed 38 activists charged with treason for discussing the mass protests in Egypt that toppled president Hosni Mubarak, a lawyer said.

“Of the 46 who were in custody, 38 have been released completely after the state agreed with us that they had no case to answer,” their attorney Alec Muchadehama told Agence France-Presse.

But eight others, including Munyaradzi Gwisai, a university lecturer and former lawmaker from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, remained in custody after the court denied them bail.

Gwisai was arrested on February 19 along with members of the audience and some passers-by at a meeting to discuss the mass protests in Egypt.

During interrogation some of the activists were tortured by state security agents, while some were denied access to medication, their lawyer said.

The group was charged with treason, which carries the death sentence in Zimbabwe.

The prosecution said the activists’ meeting had been convened to organise “the removal of a constitutional government by unconstitutional means”.

“In their speeches, the accused noted that there was a long-serving dictator, authoritarian leader, general poverty, unemployment and capitalist practices where the general populace of Zimbabwe was suffering,” prosecutors said in their charge sheet.

The arrests drew international condemnation, including from the United Nation’s human rights chief and the United States State Department, which said President Robert Mugabe, who has been in power since 1980, “did not learn the right lessons” from the popular revolts in Egypt and Tunisia.—Sapa-AFP

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