There was drama at the High Court yesterday after the 29 MDC-T activists accused of murdering a police officer, Petros Mutedza, in Glen View last year threatened to boycott trial if their relatives were not allowed to attend proceedings in the courtroom.
Armed riot police were milling around the High Court early in the morning, turning away friends and relatives of the accused persons before they finally allowed them in after intervention by defence lawyers.
On Monday, police had to use teargas to disperse MDC-T demonstrators who converged at the court, demanding the release of the activists.
“Violence took place outside, there was peace in the courtroom yesterday (Monday) and I don’t know why you are turning them away when it is an open court. There is no court order barring them from entering the courtroom. If they are not allowed in, I will not take part in such a kangaroo court,” Beatrice Mtetwa, one of the defence lawyers, charged at the police.
The police defended their decision to bar relatives of the accused saying they wanted to avoid clashes reminiscent to what happened on Monday which resulted in the injury of a police officer. The activists’ relatives were eventually allowed into the courtroom after identifying themselves.
The trial then continued with defence lawyer Charles Kwaramba arguing that the activists were proper candidates for bail and their behaviour had proved they would not abscond and their personal circumstances were already on record.
Some of the activists have been in custody since May last year when Mutedza was allegedly murdered. Kwaramba said State papers were “in shambles, vague and embarrassing” because they did not explain how each of the accused persons was linked to the crime.
“The State papers do not tell how the accused participated and how each associated with the incident, yet this is the most crucial because it is supposed to create the causal link between each of the accused persons and the offence,” Kwaramba said.
He said even the summaries of the witnesses who were going to testify did not disclose how each was linked to the crime.
Kwaramba said the defence outlines had exceptional defence for each accused but the police failed to investigate and disprove the evidence and link the accused persons to the crime.
“The accused’s role is not identified in the State case. It’s an incident that took place at a public place and the issue of identity should even concern the court,” he said.
“They had been in custody a year ago. What will happen if they are acquitted? Is it a matter of simply saying tough luck? Some have lost their livelihoods and yet it is happening on circumstances where they are not yet proved guilty.”
He said the accused people would have been tried a long time ago if the justice system had been functioning properly.
But State prosecutor Edmore Nyazamba insisted the accused would abscond if granted bail. He said although they were once temporarily given bail in March and did not abscond, the circumstance of indictment had changed.
He said they now knew the form of capital punishment their offence would attract if convicted and would likely abscond.
Justice Chinembiri Bhunu reserved judgment on bail and the trial continues today pending his ruling.