Egypt 6 found guilty in Zimbabwe

Verdict is fatal blow to rule of law

Richard Lee's picture

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Strategic communications for WWF

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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