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Dangarembga and Barnes’ conviction, a travesty of justice — Amnesty International

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By Anna Chibamu

ZIMBABWEANS are not free to express themselves as government continues to persecute its opponents for raising concerns affecting citizens, a human rights organisation has said.

ln a statement Friday, Amnesty International (AI) Zimbabwe said the conviction of award-winning author, Tsitsi Dangarembga, and Julie Barnes Thursday for fighting for political reforms and a better country for themselves and their fellow Zimbabweans was a travesty of justice.

The organisation said both conviction and sentence send a clear and chilling message that “there is no space for dissenting views in Zimbabwe, and that anyone who dares to freely express themselves will face persecution.”

Dangarembga and Barnes were each convicted for allegedly inciting violence, handed a six-month suspended sentence for participating in the July 31, 2020 protest against economic hardships.

The two were fined $70 000 each.

AI Zimbabwe’s Executive Director, Lucia Masuka urged Zimbabwean authorities to uphold the rule of law and create an environment where people such as Dangarembga and Barnes can freely exercise their freedom of expression without any fear.

“Authorities must stop targeting opponents and critics with prosecution and long pre-trial detentions.

“They must end their relentless harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders and activists who have committed no crime other than to demand that the government deliver better services to the people of Zimbabwe.

“It is not a crime for people to exercise their right to protest peacefully, and Tsitsi Dangarembga and Julie Barnes are not criminals.
Authorities must end the criminalising of protests,” Masuka said.

The duo was arrested after staging a street march in Harare, holding banners to demand institutional reforms.

They were later released on bail, and endured a prolonged remand culminating in a trial that saw their conviction Thursday.