HUMAN rights defender Beatrice Mtetwa, who was arrested early this year over charges of defeating or obstructing the course of justice while attending to her client’s distress call, was yesterday acquitted for lack of evidence.
CHARLES LAITON,SENIOR COURT REPORTER
Mtetwa, who has won international awards for her defence of journalists and opposition politicians, was arrested on March 17 after police officers said she called them President Robert Mugabe’s “dogs” and took photographs of them during a search at the home of her client, Thabani Mpofu, a member of the opposition MDC-T party. The feisty human rights lawyer was eventually put on trial for contravening Section 184 (1) (g) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
However, Harare magistrate Rumbidzai Mugwagwa yesterday said evidence adduced by the State through its witnesses was marred by contradictions thereby rendering it undependable to warrant placing Mtetwa on her defence.
“There is no evidence that the accused (Mtetwa) stopped the police from searching the premises and, as such, there is no reason to place her on her defence,” Mugwagwa ruled.
The magistrate further said although the police officers seized Mtetwa’s cellphone for forensic examination after accusing her of taking photographs, nothing was recovered from it that constituted an offence.
“Her phone was taken for forensic examination, but nothing was recovered. However, taking of photographs does not constitute a criminal offence,” the court said.
The magistrate said evidence was adduced to the effect that Mtetwa simply asked for a search warrant, but never, at any stage, interfered with police searches since by the time she arrived at the scene, the police had already completed their raid on Mpofu’s residence.
After her discharge, Mtetwa, who was surrounded by family members, workmates and friends, could not hide her excitement as she chanted that she had been vindicated.
“I feel vindicated, I am vindicated, it was a set-up and the court has seen through it. Here I am, I have been set free. This was done by my enemies who did not want my clients to be represented by a lawyer of their own choice,” Mtetwa said smiling and pacing towards her vehicle.
Mtetwa was arrested as she sought to assist her four clients from then Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s office — namely Mpofu, Felix Matsinde, Anna Muzvidziwa and Worship Dumba — who still have a pending court case involving contravention of the Official Secrets Act.