Zim activists fined, get community service
Harare - A Zimbabwe court said on Wednesday it took a "compassionate approach" by not sending to jail six civic activists convicted of conspiring to commit public violence during a meeting in which they watched video footage of the mass uprisings in Egypt.
Harare Magistrate Kudakwashe Jarabini fined the activists $500 each and ordered them to carry out 420 hours of community service or face a year in jail.
He suspended another 12 months’ imprisonment on condition they don't commit a similar offense over the next five years.
In an apparent bid to head off intense local and international outrage over the case - along with frequent accusations of bias by the nation's courts in favour of President Robert Mugabe - Jarabini said he sought to pass a deterrent sentence but didn't want to send out "a sense of shock" to Zimbabweans.
The group was arrested last year for holding a meeting it said was an academic lecture on democratic rights.
Jarabini found the activists guilty on Monday, saying that while watching a video was not a crime, the "manner and motive" of the February 2011 meeting showed bad intent.
He ruled that showing footage of uprisings in both Tunisia and Egypt that included "nasty scenarios" was intended to arouse hostility toward Zimbabwe's government.
The activists had faced a maximum prison sentence of up to ten years. Original charges of treason carrying a possible death sentence were dropped in months of legal wrangling.