Magistrate in near shouting match with Mtetwa


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A Harare magistrate Catherine Chimanda nearly engaged in a shouting match with lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa who was representing another human rights lawyer Alec Muchadehama according to the United States embassy.

The embassy said although Chimanda had ruled in favour of Muchadehama by removing him from remand, she had difficult in concealing her hostility towards the two human rights lawyers.

Muchadehama was facing charges of obstructing justice.

The embassy said Chimanda was compromised because she presided over highly political and sensitive cases.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 09HARARE461, AG’S OFFICE STILL PURSUING LAWYER, JOURNALISTS, WOZA

If you are new to these pages, please read an introduction on the structure of a cable as well as how to discuss them with others. See also the FAQs

Reference ID

Created

Classification

Origin

09HARARE461

2009-06-02 15:10

UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY

Embassy Harare

VZCZCXRO8488

RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHSB #0461/01 1531510

ZNR UUUUU ZZH

R 021510Z JUN 09

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4561

RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE

RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 2295

RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 2861

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 2980

RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 1419

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 2243

RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 2610

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 3028

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 5469

RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2152

RUZEHAA/CDR USEUCOM INTEL VAIHINGEN GE

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC

RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC

RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC

RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000461

 

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR B. WALCH

DRL FOR N. WILETT

ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR M. GAVIN

STATE PASS TO USAID FOR L.DOBBINS AND E.LOKEN

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: PHUM ASEC KDEM PGOV PREL ZI

SUBJECT: AG’S OFFICE STILL PURSUING LAWYER, JOURNALISTS, WOZA

 

REF: HARARE 332

 

——-

SUMMARY

——-

 

¶1. (SBU) The harassment of human rights lawyers and independent

journalists continues as the Attorney General’s (AG) office–headed

by ZANU-PF stalwart Johannes Tomana–shows no signs of letting up on

politically motivated criminal prosecutions. Human rights lawyer

Alec Muchadehama and Zimbabwe Independent journalists Vincent Kahiya

and Constantine Chimakure were back in court again on May 28 on

trumped up charges. In addition, a group of eight women and two

lawyers were acquitted of charges of disturbing the peace during a

February Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) march in a trial that

demonstrated the ineptitude of both the prosecutor’s office and the

police. On June 1, the magistrate removed Muchadehama’s case from

remand, stating that there is no evidence against him. Nonetheless,

the State may still pursue the case. END SUMMARY.

 

—————————–

Arrest of Human Rights Lawyer

—————————–

 

¶2. (SBU) Popular human rights lawyer Alec Muchadehama was arrested

on May 13 for allegedly conniving with a judge’s clerk to facilitate

the release on bail of three men accused of bombing police stations

(ref A). On April 9, after months of legal maneuvering, High Court

Judge Charles Hungwe granted bail. As has become customary, the

Attorney General’s office indicated it wished to appeal, starting

the seven day clock to file the appeal while the three prisoners

remained in custody. When the AG failed to file the appeal to the

Supreme Court within the requisite period, the prisoners were

released on bail as directed by Judge Hungwe. On April 17

Muchadehama processed the necessary papers together with a court

clerk, who was also arrested for obstruction of justice, and the

three prisoners were released on bail. In a highly unprecedented

move, Attorney General Tomana ordered Muchadehama’s arrest. The

AG’s office argues that the seven day window excludes holidays and

weekends, a contention that is now before the Supreme Court.

 

——————————————— –

Magistrate Rules in Muchadehama’s Favor

——————————————— –

 

¶3. (SBU) At the May 28 hearing, Muchadehama’s lawyer, respected

human rights defender Beatrice Mtetwa, argued that there were no

facts showing that an offense was committed and Muchadehama should

be removed from remand. At most there was a difference of opinion

on how to compute the seven day period within which the Attorney

General’s appeal had to be filed in the Supreme Court. Furthermore,

on April 17 Muchadehama had advised the AG of his intention to

procure his clients’ release on bail, dmonstrating that he was open

in his actions and did not obstruct justice. The State, which

Qin his actions and did not obstruct justice. The State, which

argued to keep Muchadehama on remand for a June 17 trial, came to

court with a whopping six lawyers. On June 1 Magistrate Catherine

Chimanda ruled in Muchadehama’s favor and removed the case from

remand on the basis that there is no evidence that he intended to

obstruct justice. The State still has the right to pursue the case

by summoning Muchadehama to court. The magistrate’s ruling,

however, lends credence to Muchadehama’s argument that his arrest

and the charges were purely political.

 

——————————————— –

Independent Journalists to Stand Trial in June

 

HARARE 00000461 002 OF 003

 

 

——————————————— –

 

¶4. (SBU) In a related matter, Chimanda remanded journalists Vincent

Kahiya (Editor) and Constantine Chimakure (News Editor) of the

Zimbabwe Independent to June 16 for trial. The two were arrested on

May 11 for publishing the names of police officers and others

involved in the abductions of human rights defender Jestina Mukoko

and others in 2008. They are charged with “publishing falsehoods

likely to cause disaffection in the security forces.” The

information was obtained from public court documents filed by the

Attorney General in the High Court. (NOTE: We have copies of the

indictments, and the news article accurately reflects their

contents. END NOTE.)

 

 

——————————————–

Magistrate Chimanda’s Impartiality In Doubt

——————————————–

 

¶5. (SBU) Although Chimanda ruled in Muchadehama’s favor, several

lawyers have told us they believe Chimanda is compromised as she

presides over these highly political and sensitive cases. In

Muchadehama’s hearing, she nearly engaged in a shouting match with

Beatrice Mtetwa and had difficulty concealing her hostility for the

two human rights defenders. Chimanda also recently ruled to

withdraw the bail conditions for the abductees on May 13.

 

————————————-

Acquittals for WOZA Women and Lawyers

————————————-

 

¶6. (SBU) Also on May 28, eight women and two lawyers with Zimbabwe

Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) were acquitted of disturbing the

peace during a WOZA march on February 10. The two relatively junior

and inexperienced prosecutors called on four police officers as

their witnesses. Although some of the officers have over 20 years

of police service, they were extremely unprepared and fumbled

through their testimony. Their inability to accurately state the

laws that govern public meetings, notification, and how police

should disperse such gatherings reflected poorly on both the

officers and the prosecution’s efforts to prepare them to provide

testimony. Near the end of the trial, the magistrate himself

smirked at the police officer’s feeble testimony.

 

——————————————–

COMMENT: Small Cases Add Up to Big Problem

——————————————–

 

¶7. (SBU) It will be difficult to restore respect for human rights in

Zimbabwe’s justice system without the appointment of an impartial

Attorney General. President Mugabe’s continued refusal to revisit

Tomana’s appointment is consistent with ZANU-PF’s ongoing badgering

of its opponents through politically motivated arrests and

prosecutions. As we watched the WOZA trial stumble along, it

appeared that the State did not even intend to win, but rather

Qappeared that the State did not even intend to win, but rather

sought to use the trial as an opportunity to further harass WOZA and

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. The arrest of Muchadehama and

the journalists continues this pattern of using the courts to curb

political freedom and instill fear among those who would speak out,

particularly in cases associated with the abductees. While the MDC

continues to imply publicly that these court cases are not “big

issues,” we disagree. As long as ZANU-PF pursues politically

motivated arrests and controls the courts–including the

magistrates–, it will continue to maintain control of the

institutions that can restore individual freedoms to Zimbabwe. END

 

HARARE 00000461 003 OF 003

 

 

COMMENT.

 

MCGEE

 

(56 VIEWS)

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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