Top rights lawyer, four teachers charged for anti-govt plot

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By Robert Tapfumaneyi

PROMINENT human rights lawyer Douglas Coltart and four teachers union leaders were Sunday charged for attending a meeting which police say was meant to strategise on committing acts of civil disobedience throughout the country.

The teachers are Robson Chere, Jess Drury, Precious Ndlovu and Munyaradzi Ndawana and are all from the militant Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) which is famous for embarking on a 275KM march last year to protest poor wages by government.

The concerned meeting which has caught the attention of the law enforcement agents is one in which the teachers were attending a Trainer of Trainers workshop at a Harare hotel Saturday.

Speaking to Sunday, Tinomuda Shoko, a lawyer with the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said Coltart and the four teachers were charged for allegedly violating the Criminal Law Codification Act.

“All the five were charged with strategising on disobedience and planning to participate in criminal acts,” she said.

“The police are saying they participated in a meeting and planning to commit acts of public violence and bigotry and that they there were strategising on civil disobedience.”

Shoko said the human rights lawyer and the teachers were all released in their lawyers’ custody.

They will be summoned for court appearance on a date police would have chosen.

Earlier during the day, Coltart had posted a video of himself claiming the four teachers were “abducted” by state security agents and later handed to police Saturday.

“Men in plain clothes broke into a private property without a warrant and abducted the four teachers and stuffed them into unmarked vehicles,” Coltart said.

“One registration number was caught which has been publicised.

“The teachers were interrogated by the CIO for many hours. During the interrogation, some of the teachers were beaten up quite badly while they were being questioned.

“After the abduction was publicised, the teachers were then handed over to the police.”

He added, “The charge of course is absolutely nonsense charge and has no relation to anything towards which was discussed in the meeting.”

Speaking to in a separate interview, ARTUZ secretary general Chere said he was in pain.

“I am currently on my way to seek medication,” he said.

“We were abducted yesterday (Saturday), taken to CIO department where we were tortured for nearly four hours before being surrendered to the Harare Central Law and Order Department.”