The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) says it is shocked and outraged at the sudden “digging up” of a case against prominent human rights lawyer Alec Muchadehama by the Attorney General (AG)’s Office.
The association has described the actions as a ploy to frustrate and distract his attention from representing victims of politically- motivated violence.
Last Friday, a law officer in the AG’s Office, Roderick Tokwe, appealed against the acquittal of Muchadehama more than eight months after he was freed by a Harare magistrate.
Muchadehama was arrested for contempt of court in June last year for allegedly facilitating the illegal release from Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison of MDC-T officials Gandhi Mudzingwa, Kisimusi Dhlamini and Andrison Manyere, a freelance journalist.
The trio had been abducted by state security agents. Muchadehama was charged alongside Constance Gambara, a clerk to High Court judge Justice Chinembiri Bhunu.
In his notice and grounds of appeal, Tokwe said Fadzai Mthombeni, the magistrate who acquitted the human rights lawyer, “erred and misdirected herself”.
In a hard-hitting response, the ZLHR said the appeal was a ploy to thwart Muchadehama from representing victims of state- sponsored abductions.
“It is not surprising that this unprocedural appeal conveniently comes at the time the High Court has finally set trial dates for civil claims for damages filed by various political and civil society activists who were victims of state-sponsored abductions,” read the statement. The victims are represented by Muchadehama.
“It is solely calculated to distract Muchadehama from his core business in representing human rights defenders and hamper his ability to deal with other cases as he will be forced to spend time and energy defending himself against continuing charges.”
According to the papers filed by the AG’s Office, Muchadehama and Gambara “allegedly brought the administration of justice into contempt” by disobeying Justice Bhunu’s order, granting the AG leave to appeal against bail awarded to Mudzingwa, Dhlamini and Manyere.
Tokwe now wants Muchadehama to be placed before the High Court for a continuation of the trial.
Austin Muziwi, the principal law officer in the AG’s Office, stated in his affidavit that the late filing of the chamber application for review was a result of problems encountered by the chief transcriber in preparing the transcript.
“There is no time limit laid down within which the trial prosecutor can file an application for leave to appeal and thus he is seeking the condonation of the High Court,”Muziwi said.