Zimbabwe activists ask for lenience

2012-03-20 22:26

Harare - Lawyers of six Zimbabwean activists convicted of discussing Arab Spring uprisings appealed for leniency ahead of their sentencing on Wednesday, as the state seeks a maximum jail term of 10 years.

"A fine in the region of $500 will meet the justice of this case," lawyer Alec Muchadehama told the court seeking a more lenient sentence.

The six include Munyaradzi Gwisai, a university lecturer and former lawmaker from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's party.

They were among 45 activists arrested in February last year while watching a video of the protests that toppled Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

The meeting aimed to discuss lessons to be drawn from the Arab Spring reform movement, but the participants were accused of scheming to overthrow Zimbabwe's long-ruling President Robert Mugabe.

The six face a sentence of up to 10 years in prison or a $2 000 fine, or both.

Muchadehama said his clients were tortured while in police detention and had been punished enough through their lengthy stay in custody.

Outright silly

"The accused persons were punished in the form of torture by the police," the lawyer said, adding that nothing resembling the Egyptian revolt occurred in Zimbabwe.

The prosecution wants the state to impose the maximum sentence, saying the six showed no remorse.

"There is no evidence of remorse or attrition in each of the accused persons judging from their demeanour in court where they pleaded not guilty."

They were initially charged with treason, a charge later changed to plotting mass protests. The other 39 people were cleared of the charges.

Gwisai told the court that the charges were "meaningless, outright silly" and "a case of political harassment by the state".

Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) on Monday slammed the group's conviction, calling it another assault on democracy and human rights.

Read more on:    robert mugabe  |  zimbabwe  |  southern africa

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