Zimbabwe court detains activists on treason charges

[JURIST] A Zimbabwe magistrate court on Monday ordered six of the 45 activists arrested in Harare last month detained on charges of treason, releasing the remaining 39. The six activists not released today will remain detained and face trial [CNN report] on the treason charges against them. If found guilty, they could be executed, pursuant to Zimbabwean law. The charges and subsequent arrests stem from the activists' attendance at a lecture on February 19, where footage of the widespread protests in Egypt [JURIST report], which resulted in the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak [Al Jazeera profile], was shown. Defense lawyers maintain they were participating in an academic debate on African politics while prosecutors contend they were engaged in a discussion regarding the possibility of an ouster of President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. In making its decision, the court considered the activities each engaged in and held that the majority of them could be released as they had merely listened to allegedly treasonous utterances in contrast to the other six, who had organized and spoken at the meeting.

The protests in Egypt have led to a variety of reactions from countries across the globe. Last month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [official website] reported [JURIST report] that Arab governments are using violence to crack down on protests inspired by the unrest in Egypt. According to the report, public gatherings in Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, United Arab Emirates, West Bank and Yemen have encountered force from security officials. In Ramallah, Palestine peaceful demonstrators were punched and kicked by the "special forces." Two journalists, a HRW research assistant and organizers of the demonstrations in Ramallah were detained. In Syria, police forces stood by as 20 people in civilian clothing beat demonstrators that had assembled to hold a candlelight vigil for Egyptian demonstrators. On February 4, police detained Ghassan al-Najjar, the leader of the Islamic Democratic Current, after he issued calls for Syrians to demonstrate for more freedom in their country. In Saudi Arabia, citizens canceled their plans for a peaceful sit-in to urge reform and better jobs after they were summoned by Interior Ministry officials. Sudanese authorities have also targeted journalists and censored newspapers covering protests. On February 2, more than a dozen of the staff of al-Maidan, a communist newspaper, were arrested. HRW also reported of an unconfirmed death of a student, Mohammed Abderahman, who was part of a protest in late January which was suppressed by excessive force. In Yemen, 6 people were injured and 28 arrested, including journalists and human rights activists, according to the Yemeni Observatory of Human Rights [official website; in Arabic]. In Bahrain, the government shut down a Facebook page calling for protests.

 

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