UK takes interest in Zim opposition court cases

Harare West legislator Joana Mamombe

BY Everson Mushava

THE United Kingdom says it is following closely how the Zimbabwean government is handling the various cases of opposition legislators and pro-democracy defenders arrested and charged for participating in January protests over fuel price hikes.

This was disclosed by Britain’s minister for Africa, Harriett Baldwin, on social media on Wednesday after the arrest of another MDC official Chalton Hwende for attempting to overthrow a constitutionally-elected government.

“It is essential that Zimbabwe upholds the rule of law and human rights,” Baldwin wrote on microblogging site, Twitter.

“We are watching closely in Harare how cases against opposition MPs and human rights defenders are progressing, including attending court hearings.”

Several MDC legislators and councillors were arrested after the January protests turned violent, leaving a trail of destruction and loss of life after the military stepped in.

MPs Settlement Chikwinya, Amos Chibaya, Joanna Mamombe and Hwende, among others, have already appeared before the courts facing various charges that include treason and concern has been raised over the way their cases have been handled.

Several human rights campaigners, including Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions leaders and social movement leaders such as Evan Mawarire, have also been arrested and appeared before the courts.

Lawyers have demonstrated against the alleged denial of justice through fast-tracked trials for hundreds of people apprehended in a violent crackdown on protests that shut down the country in January.

The United States and European Union have already raised concern over the way the arrested activists were treated and tried and implored Harare to respect human rights.