Amnesty International condemns Sikhala, Sithole detentions, denial of access to lawyers

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By Staff Reporter

GLOBAL human rights group Amnesty International has condemned the treatment of opposition legislators Job Sikhala and Godfrey Sithole who have been in remand prison since their mid-June arrests.

The opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) legislators are battling for bail after being arrested for allegedly inciting the violence which rocked memorial services for slain party activist Moreblessing Ali.

Both deny the allegations.

In a statement this week, Amnesty’s deputy director for southern Africa Muleya Mwananyanda said; “The continued detention of Job Sikhala and Godfrey Sithole and the denial of their lawyers access to meet with them is an absolute travesty of justice.

“There is an emerging trend where critics of government and members of the opposition are consistently harassed and denied bail by the courts, brought to court in iron legs and at times denied access to their lawyers.

“Yet high profile political elites facing criminal offences are in most cases treated entirely differently with bail being granted regardless of the seriousness of the offence.”

Mwananyanda added; “The charges levelled against Sikhala and Sithole and the denial of bail at the magistrates court show all the hallmarks of an effort to persecute and silence political opposition by the Zimbabwean authorities.

“The authorities should refocus their efforts on ensuring that Moreblessing Ali’s killers face justice, and ensuring access to justice and effective remedies for victims and their families.”

Sikhala and Sithole were denied bail when they appeared in the magistrates court and have since appealed to the High Court.

Both were at the High Court again Tuesday for the bail appeal but the hearing was postponed to Thursday after prosecutors said they were yet to file opposing papers.

Sikhala’s lawyers, Alec Muchadehama and Jeremiah Bhamu, insist that his arrest is politically motivated.

The MP, who is also the family lawyer for the Ali family, has been arrested a record 67 times on politically-motivated charges without conviction.