By Mary Taruvinga
CONTROVERSIAL former Zanu PF youth leader Jimu Kunaka and 26 other suspects linked to violent post-election protests of August 1 last year, were Wednesday freed by a Harare magistrate, igniting scenes of celebration from the group.
Since their arrest last year, their trial kept being postponed at the Harare magistrates’ court.
Presiding magistrate Rumbidzai Mugwagwa ruled it was not fair to keep the suspects on remand for long without trial.
“As complex as the case might be, the accused still enjoy the same rights,” she said, adding, “You will be summoned when he State is ready. Further remand is hereby refused.”
The suspects had made several applications against trial but their requests were turned down.
They were represented by Gift Mtisi of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.
Mugwagwa noted that the courts had already resolved the public violence trials of January 14 this year and that there was no reason “to treat this matter differently.”
Mtisi had successfully argued that the rights of his clients were being violated through continuous postponement considering they were on stringent reporting conditions.
“It is the duty of the court to protect the rights of the accused persons. I have lost count of the number of magistrates who have presided over this matter and the State has exhausted all the possible excuses it could use to seek postponements,” he had argued in court.
However, prosecutor Moses Mapanga had opposed the application saying the matter was “complex and will take longer than other public violence matters”.
Mapanga had also requested that he be given one last chance.
The suspects were held responsible for damaging shops, property and Zanu PF vehicle, among other acts of violence.
The state also blamed them for the death of six people who succumbed to gunshot wounds by suspected members of the Zimbabwe National Army who were deployed in Harare’s CBD on the fateful day to quell the protests.
The freed suspects were denying the allegations, arguing they were caught up in a dragnet police arrests.
Most suspects said they were MDC supporters and were arrested while seeking refuge at the party’s Harvest House headquarters in central Harare when police were hunting for perpetrators of the violence.