Zimbabwe: Activists face 20 years in jail for lecture
Posted: 17 June 2011
Amnesty International is appealing to authorities in Zimbabwe to immediately drop the charges against six men who were arrested earlier this year for attending and organising a lecture about the North Africa protests. The men, who have been charged with ‘attempting to subvert a constitutionally elected government’ will stand trial on Monday 18 July. If found guilty, the six activists could be sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The six men – Eddson Chakuma, Antonater Choto, Hopewell Gumbo, Munyaradzi Gwisai, Tatenda Mombeyarara and Welcome Zimuto – are part of the group of 45 men and women who were arrested in February earlier this year and originally charged with treason after attending a lecture entitled ‘Revolt in Egypt and Tunisia: What lessons can be learnt by Zimbabwe and Africa’. On 7 March, 39 of the 45 were released after a Magistrates court dismissed the charges of treason. The remaining six, set to stand trial next month, either spoke at the lecture or work with the Zimbabwean chapter of the International Socialist Organisation. The state dropped the treason charge, against them on 30 May.
Amnesty International’s UK Director Kate Allen said:
“The charges brought against these men are simply preposterous. No one should face the prospect of 20 years imprisonment for organising and attending a lecture. Not only are these charges a flagrant breach of the men’s right to freedom of expression, they also appear to be politically motivated.
“The charges must be dropped immediately and unconditionally”.
The six men were held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day until they were released on bail on 16 March. Several of the activists including Munyaradzi Gwisai were reportedly beaten by security agents while in prison.
In recent months Amnesty International has expressed concern about the deteriorating situation for human rights activists in Zimbabwe. Since February the organisation has noted a significant increase in harassment and intimidation by police in which activists across the country have been arrested, detained, reportedly tortured and premises have been raided.