State withdraws charges against human rights lawyers 

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By Mary Taruvinga

The State on Friday withdrew charges against two top rights lawyers, Douglas Coltart and Tapiwa Muchineripi who were arrested while attending to their clients at a hospital last year.

Coltart and Muchineripi were being charged with defeating the course of justice after blocking police from interviewing Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) GlenNorah councillor Womberaiishe Nhende who was hospitalised at Parktown hospital in Harare following his alleged abduction and torture by suspected state agents.

Prosecutors made a U-turn Friday after conceding that charges against the two did not warrant a criminal offence.

Muchineripi told that he was happy justice had been served.

“I am elated and I am grateful to the Almighty God and our ZLHR legal team led by Mukoma Aleck Muchadehama for spiritedly fighting for me and my colleague Doug Coltart.

“Justice has been done.We are not criminals but hard-working human rights lawyers fighting for our diverse clients’ rights and the upholding of the rule of law and constitutionalism,” Muchineripi.

“Police officers who arrested us were just overzealous,” added Coltart.

The two through their lawyer, Alec Muchadehama, had insisted that their arrest was unlawful.

Muchadehama said the actions of the police are a direct attack on his clients to practice their profession.

“The accused clearly told the police why they were there. Even the complainant or witness is entitled to legal representation.”

Nhende was allegedly abducted, drugged and tortured together with his colleague Sanele Mukhulane before they were dumped while naked in Mapinga, Mashonaland West province.

The court heard officers stormed the hospital demanding to interview Nhende and Mukhuhlani despite that no report was made regarding their abduction.

A group of officers who first went to the hospital had agreed to interview Nhende and Mukhulane the following day after being told about their current health condition.

However, another officer, Detective Inspector Chafa went to the hospital and demanded to see the two.