Egypt 6 found guilty in Zimbabwe

By Richard Lee | March 19th, 2012

A magistrate in Zimbabwe has somehow found the 'Egypt 6' guilty of conspiracy to incite public violence - for watching videos of the Arab Spring. Anyone who has even a passing acquaintance with the case will know that there is absoltuely no evidence whatsoever for this extraordinary verdict - that the magistrate clearly based his decision on politics rather than the law. It is another very sad day for Zimbabwe's once proud judicial system.

The six men were part of a group of 45 activists, who were watching video footage of the Egyptian uprisings and discussing the meaning of the events for Africans living under similarly undemocratic conditions across the continent, when the police arrived. They were arrested for studying TV pictures that people around the world had been watching for weeks.

Some of them were beaten and tortured. All of them were held for weeks – the women at the infamous Chikurubi Prison, and the men at Harare Central – and initially charged with treason.

Eventually, a magistrate dismissed the treason charges against all but the six ‘leaders’. After numerous postponements and the laughable excuse for a case put forward by the prosecution, the six - and everyone else who had been following the case - expected that their ordeal would end today with an acquittal and that they would finally be able to continue with their lives.

Based solely on law, justice and the nonsense that the prosecution produced, any magistrate in an open and democratic state would have found the defendants not guilty. But this is Zimbabwe. Clearly the men will appeal this farcical verdict but there is no guarantee that a higher court will be any less politicised. Indeed, the higher up the judicial ladder in Zimbabwe, the more politicised and pro-ZANU-PF the judges become.

But they need the support of the Movement for Democratic Change (one of the men - Munyaradzi Gwisai - used to be an MDC MP) to help overturn this travesty of justice - and to show that there is still some respect for the rule of law in Zimbabwe.

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A sad day indeed for justice

A sad day indeed for justice in Zimbabwe. In the past years Magistrates, High Court Judges and Supreme Court Justices have handed down judgments that have been clearly based on political and not justice imperatives. This is one such case. The problem though is that in a place like Zimbabwe where a veneer of due process has been allowed it becomes difficult to challenge the judgment once it has been made.

Obviously there still is opportunity to appeal or to challenge the decision on constitutional grounds citing academic freedom as well as those of expression and assembly. In these circumstances such course of action should be vigorously pursued. Despite most of us being aware that the Zimbabwean judiciary has been extremely politicized, compromised and stuffed by Mugabe loyalists, we time and again submit to its jurisdiction.

I guess there is no option when criminal charges are brought against one otherwise one risks being a fugitive from justice. Despite the massive loss of credibility and legitimacy in Zimbabwe’s judiciary the ordinary man on the street may still believe that “you win some, you lose some”. Such a travesty of justice will not necessarily galvanize a critical mass of Zimbabweans to stand up for what they think is right. Already some are saying “but they know the regime, how could they organize a viewing of a video of the North Africa uprisings”. I guess what could be useful among the multiple strategies that need to be followed is a dissection of the judgment that communicates to ordinary Zimbabweans how sick this judgment is.

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