A HUMAN rights watchdog has urged the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) and regional bodies to put pressure on the government to release political prisoners.
BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) said the arrests further taint the country’s questionable human rights record.
ZPP, in its latest statement, cites the arrest of clerics, Evan Mawarire and Patrick Mugadza, arguing the two are “prisoners of conscience”, whose crime is to express their political opinions and must be unconditionally released.
“The government of Zimbabwe is unnecessarily blemishing its already questionable human rights record by holding citizens in jail for solely expressing political opinions.
“ZPP urges the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and regional bodies to pressure the Zimbabwean government to release all political prisoners and guarantee their right to freedom of expression,” the organisation said.
Mugadza was arrested last month over his claims that God had told him President Robert Mugabe would die in October this year.
Mawarire was picked up at Harare International Airport last week, as he returned home from a six-month self-imposed exile.
Mawarire now faces, among others, a charge of subversion, which carries a minimum 20-year jail term.
Opposition parties, civic society groups and the American embassy in Harare have also condemned the arrest of the clerics, and continue to demand their release, attracting the government’s ire.
Mugabe’s spokesperson and Information ministry permanent secretary, George Charamba, has told the US to “go hang on a banana tree”.
ZPP said Zimbabweans should not be jailed for exercising their democratic rights to criticise the government.
“Zimbabwe is a constitutional democracy, which guarantees the right to freedom of expression and this includes the right to express a political opinion in a peaceful manner.
“Citizens also have the right to petition the government or political leaders on any issues affecting them including demanding that the President resign if they have any lawful justification for that demand,” the statement said.
Mawarire’s bail application is set to be heard today, while Mugadza is still in prison after being denied bail.