High Court frees five activists accused of plot to topple Mnangagwa, Judge rules activists were tortured

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By Mary Taruvinga/Audience Mutema

Five human rights activists, accused of plotting to topple President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government have been freed on bail.

High Court Judge Justice Tawanda Chitapi freed the activists on RTGS$1 000 each. Justice Chitapi also noted that it was apparent that the activists were tortured upon arrest.

The five are,George Makoni, Tatenda Mombeyarara, Gamuchirai Mukura, Nyasha Mpahlo and Farirayi Gumbonzvanda.

As part of their bail conditions the activists were ordered to surrender their passports, continue residing at their given addresses and to report everyday at their nearest police stations.

Two more activists who were arrested later are still behind bars as their bail ruling was set for June 10.

The two are Sithabile Dewa and Beauty Rita Nyampinga.In his ruling, Justice Chitapi said:

“The applicants told this court that their arrest and detention was unlawful and was done in violation of their constitutional rights. They said they were not informed of their charges upon arrest, this was not contested by the State.

“They said they were not granted access to their lawyers, this was also not disputed by the State. This court will take it as a fact that circumstances surrounding the arrest and detention were as detailed by the applicants,” said Chitapi.

The Judge went on to remind the State that it is not immune to the law.

“Court agrees that allegations should be viewed in serious light as submitted by the State but it is for this court to balance the interests of the State and that of the applicants,” the Judge said.

Justice Chitapi said the State failed to place anything before the court showing the workshop had something to do with subversion.

“The program of the workshop was produced by the applicants who wanted to prove the workshop had nothing to do with subversion but the State then pounced on the program and tried to make it it’s own case,” he said.

Chitapi said the fact that the applicants chose to come back home knowing arrest was imminent shows they are not flight risks.

“This court will take judicial notice of issues of violence which has rocked the country recently but the State failed to link the applicants with the previous disturbances.

“It is clear that the State arrested to investigate since prosecutor Chimbare submitted that the seized cellphones of the applicants and laptops were currently being checked for any subversive information at Potraz (Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority),” said Justice Chitapi.

According to Justice Chitapi, the State contradicted itself after the prosecutor told court that they seized the gadgets after establishing they contained such material.

“In the view of court, there are no compelling reasons upon which the applicants can be denied bail. What is required is to balance interests of both sides to ensure that the administration of justice is not undermined,” he ruled.

“There is need to allay fears of the State by imposing stringent conditions said Chitapi before granting the five bail.”

The activists are facing subversion charges after allegedly receiving training on how to operate small arms, evade arrest during civil unrest and were taught on counter intelligence and acts of terrorism during a workshop in the Maldives.

According to the State, during the workshop, the activists allegedly also received training on how to mobilise citizens to turn against the government and to engage in acts of civil disobedience.

They were also taught ways of evading authorities and resisting laws during protests. The five will be back in court on June 20 for their routine remand.