Treason suspects tortured , say lawyers

Posted: 25/02/2011 in Africa, Censorship, Constitution, Demonstration, Egypt, Gwisai, Human Rights, Libya, police brutality, Politics, Revolution, Torture, Treason Charges, Zimbabwe

LAWYERS for 46 people facing treason charges
for allegedly plotting an Egyptian- style uprising
yesterday said that some members of the group
were tortured by police.
Magistrate Munamato Mutevedzi ordered the
suspects to be held in detention to reappear in
court on Monday , saying only the High Court
was empowered to free them on bail on treason
charges punishable by death .
He ordered that they be given medical
examinations before the hearing to verify
allegations of torture .
Defence lawyer Alec Muchadehama told the
court that 12 suspects told lawyers they were
beaten with broomsticks on their bodies,
buttocks and the soles of their feet.
They were arrested on Saturday for attending a
lecture on North African anti -government
protests.
He said others were denied medication and
access to lawyers.
State prosecutors alleged the group of labour
and social activists held the meeting to plan a
revolt against long -time President Robert
Mugabe.
The group says it was an academic study session
and denies wrongdoing.
Muchadehama told the court that delays in
bringing the group to their first court
appearance on Wednesday were illegal because
Zimbabwean law says suspects must be
arraigned within 48 hours of arrest.
Prosecutors alleged the group watched videos of
the Egyptian revolt that brought down Hosni
Mubarak after nearly three decades in power.
Prosecutors also claimed the meeting
participants took turns making speeches calling
for a revolt against Mugabe.
Muchadehama , the defence lawyer , insisted
there were no grounds for treason charges.
“ What happened in Egypt and Tunisia is that
people gathered and demonstrated and their
leaders resigned or abdicated their seats ,” he
said . “ No treason was committed in the two
countries. ”
If watching television footage of the uprisings
was treason, he said, most Zimbabweans would
be guilty of it.
But authorities loyal to Mugabe were “ so
paranoid , ” he said , that anything seen to
challenge Mugabe was termed treason and
subversion .
Prosecutors claim that former opposition
lawmaker Munyaradzi Gwisai , head of the local
branch of the International Socialist
Organization , and the other civic activists were
conducting the meeting to “ organise, strategise
and implement the removal of the constitutional
government of Zimbabwe . . . the Egyptian way . ”
Speaking from the dock , Gwisai said he believed
all citizens had the right to take grievances to
their leaders through open discussion .
Gwisai said he was repeatedly beaten with a
wooden plank and told to confess that he called
for Mugabe ’ s ouster. The beatings were
recorded by his interrogators , he said .
As a public figure, Mugabe should be subject to
political examination and democratic debate
even though democratic institutions in
Zimbabwe are flawed , Gwisai said .
“ Events in Egypt and Tunisia show that the basis
of legitimate power in democratic societies lies
with the people,” he said . “ Marches , singing and
protests are fundamental human rights through
which people can address those who govern
them . ”
He said studying protests elsewhere was
important for “ because people who seek change
and don’ t understand it will repeat the mistakes
of history. ” — AP.

Friday , 25 February 2011 07 : 43

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