[Marxism] Zimbabwe Convicts 6 Who Viewed Revolt News

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Mar 20 10:56:19 MDT 2012


NY Times March 19, 2012
Zimbabwe Convicts 6 Who Viewed Revolt News
By LYDIA POLGREEN

JOHANNESBURG — Six political activists in Zimbabwe who gathered 
last year to watch and discuss television news broadcasts of the 
Arab Spring protests were convicted on Monday of conspiring to 
commit violence in an effort to overthrow the government.

The penalty could be 10 years in prison. They are to be sentenced 
on Tuesday.

About 45 activists, students and trade unionists were arrested 
last February while attending a meeting convened by Munyaradzi 
Gwisai, a lecturer at the law school at the University of Zimbabwe 
and a former member of Parliament for Zimbabwe’s main opposition 
party, to discuss the antiauthoritarian uprisings in Egypt and 
Tunisia.

Prosecutors claimed that Mr. Gwisai and the others were planning 
to start a similar uprising in Zimbabwe aimed at toppling 
President Robert G. Mugabe, who has been in power for three 
decades. Most of the defendants were later released, but six, 
including Mr. Gwisai, were charged with serious crimes. Lawyers 
for the accused said the meeting was an academic discussion, not a 
planning session for a revolution.

The judge in the case, Kudakwashe Jarabini, said in court that 
while watching videos of the Arab uprisings was not a crime, the 
organizers had intended to incite hostility toward the government 
by playing them, according to people in the courtroom.

Mr. Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party has been in a tenuous unity government 
with the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic 
Change, led by Morgan Tsvangirai, since the 2008 election. Mr. 
Tsvangirai won the most votes but dropped out of the race because 
of violence against his supporters. International pressure led to 
the creation of a unity government. But Mr. Mugabe retained the 
most crucial government posts, particularly those that control the 
police and the army.

Mr. Mugabe’s party has been pushing hard for new elections, hoping 
to retake power while Mr. Mugabe, 88, whose health has grown more 
fragile, remains alive. But the Movement for Democratic Change and 
many activists and analysts have argued against holding elections 
before a new constitution is drawn up and crucial institutions, 
like the election commission, are reformed. An estimated 350 
people died in violence during the 2008 election.

Shortly after the 45 activists were arrested last year, a lawyer 
working for them reported that a dozen had been tortured to try to 
force them to testify for the state and that six had been lashed. 
The accusations prompted a letter of concern from the United 
Nations torture investigator, Juan E. Méndez.

Dewa Mavhinga of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, a collection of 
hundreds of civic groups, said it appeared that the window for 
change in Zimbabwe was closing.

“It is an indicator that we are really going towards elections and 
that the democratic space that was previously somewhat open is 
quickly closing down,” Mr. Mavhinga said. “There is no crime that 
has been committed. It is a political issue that is being dealt 
with by a politicized and severely compromised judiciary.”




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