Zimbabwe whistleblower out on bail

2010-07-13 07:58

A judge in Zimbabwe has freed on bail a human rights activist

jailed for more than five weeks on allegations of passing false information on

diamond-mining violations to the international diamond control body.

Judge Mawadze Gurainesu yesterday dismissed claims by state

prosecutors that activist Farai Maguwu could interfere with witnesses called in

police investigations into his conduct.

Bail had been rejected at several previous hearings after

prosecutors alleged he gave out false information on rights violations and

killings by police and troops in the eastern diamond district.

Human rights groups protested Maguwu’s continued detention since

June 3 and said he was denied medical attention and mistreated in jail.

Gurainesu said police did not say when they would finish their

investigation. But he said police reported long delays in gathering evidence

from officials of the Kimberley Process control body outside Zimbabwe.

He said the slow progress of the investigations prejudiced

Maguwu.

“His liberty should not be trampled upon on flimsy reasons,” the

judge said.

Maguwu was freed on $1 500 (about R11 000) bail on condition that

he surrender his passport, report daily to police and remain within 40km of his

home in the eastern city of Mutare.

He denied charges of possessing false information on killings,

torture and the names of perpetrators along with stolen state security

documents, offences carrying a penalty of up to 20 years in jail.

Zimbabwe’s diamond mining industry, which top politicians and

military chiefs have also alleged to be corrupt, is scheduled to again come

under review tomorrow at a meeting of the World Diamond Council in St.

Petersburg, Russia.

Maguwu’s detention contributed to a deadlock over whether to allow

Zimbabwe to sell its diamonds on the world market at a meeting of the Kimberley

Process control body in Israel last month.

The oversight body’s regional monitor Abbey Chikane had recommended

that Zimbabwe’s diamonds be certified for world sales, as Zimbabwe had met the

body’s minimum standards for diamond mining.

Documents allegedly produced by Maguwu and his Centre for Research

and Development purported to contain hospital records, mortuary reports and

burial orders of victims and interviews with survivors who identified “at least

eight perpetrators of atrocities,” mostly senior police officers, in the

Chiadzwa diamond district.

The documents, which prosecutors said contained false information,

also reported on victims who testified to abuse by police and soldiers and

sightings of dead bodies in the diamond fields.

At a previous bail hearing, a different High Court judge said

prosecutors alleged Maguwu made a living from publishing false information

detrimental to his country.

Human rights organisations have harshly opposed international sales

of alleged “blood diamonds” from Zimbabwe.

The mines ministry, controlled by President Robert Mugabe’s party

in a fragile coalition with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the former

opposition leader, denies wrongdoing and accuses human rights groups of

“peddling falsehoods” over rights violations.

Mugabe last week vowed to go ahead with diamond sales without

certification from the world control body.


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