Human rights NGO Forum director charged by police
By Tichaona Sibanda
The executive director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, Abel Chikomo,
has been charged by the police for allegedly running an ‘illegal’
Chikomo received the summons on Tuesday and the case has been set to go for
trial on 25th July, according to the chairperson of the forum, Irene Petras.
The police charge has raised eyebrows within the NGO community as it comes
barely two months after the United Nations High Commissioner for Human
Rights, Navi Pillay, visited Zimbabwe. Her five day visit seemed to have
unsettled top ZANU PF officials, with party spokesperson Rugare Gumbo saying
her tour was a ploy for military intervention.
Speaking to SW Radio Africa’s Hidden Story program, Petras said this latest
move by the police was just the start of a planned clampdown against human
rights defenders in Zimbabwe.
‘We are quite surprised that the police say Chikomo is running an
organization that is not registered. That forum has been in existence for a
long time and we will get to the intricacies of the legal aspect if at all
the case goes for trial at end of this month,’ Petras said.
Petras, a lawyer by profession, said that the Forum is operating entirely in
accordance with the laws of Zimbabwe, adding that it was difficult to
understand why they were continuously harassing Chikomo.
In the past year, police have been summoning Chikomo to various stations for
interrogations and it was only on Tuesday that they decided to lay charges
Petras added that the persecution of NGO’s and civil society goes wholly
against the spirit expected of a government that should be making moves
Meanwhile High Court Judge, Justice Chinembiri Bhunu, on Thursday granted
the 29 MDC members facing false charges of murdering a police officer, the
right to appeal for bail at the Supreme Court. Justice Bhunu first denied
them bail just before the start of the trial in May.
Defence lawyer, Charles Kwaramba told us they were now working on the new
bail application that they will file at the Supreme Court soon.
‘This is good news, it’s a step in the right direction forward and I hope it’s
the start of better things to come for clients who have been in custody for
a long time now,’ Kwaramba said. The trial of the 29 members will resume
next week following a week long break.
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