The Central Intelligence Organisation infiltrated the meeting, where people were discussing the events in the Middle East and the fall of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. Munyaradzi Gwisai, the director of the Labour Law Center, is among those detained.
The most recent report is that none have been released and that they are being charged with treason. This is a very serious charge that carries the death penalty.
This directly from Ashley Fataar, Claire Ceruti and Shone Igene of the group Keep Left, South Africa:
Our contact went to court this afternoon. All 52 were at court an hour before the Magistrate arrived. The prosecutor looked surprised that the Magistrate – and the lawyers for the accused – wanted the comrades to appear in the court. It took ages before everyone was brought in, and named, and accounted for.
Meanwhile, the prosecution had sprung new charges on the accused at the last minute – the lawyers for the accused weren’t even aware of them until they all got to court. The extra charge is Treason. The first charge of "Plotting to subvert the government through unconstitutional means" is now just the back-up charge.
Having had all the charges read out to them, at least five did not understand what they were being charged for, understandably. So the Magistrate ordered all the 52 to report back tomorrow (Thursday). They are now spending their fifth night in jail.
After the case was adjourned, the women prisoners were then handcuffed and had leg irons placed on them. They have been taken to the maximum security jail called Chikurubi on the outskirts of Harare. Lawyers have still been denied access to them to explain what they are being charged for.
These are simply delaying tactics to deny the comrades their freedom. What they are being charged for means that the case will have to go to the High Court - a further delay as more papers get prepared.
We are asking comrades to also organise protests outside their nearest Zimbabwean embassy as a matter of urgency, where possible.
What you can do:
1. Call the Zimbabwe Embassy in Ottawa. It doesn’t matter what time of day; leave a message). 613.421.2824 For speaking notes, see sample letter, below.
2. Send an email.
Embassy of the Republic of Zimbabwe in Ottawa, Ontario: firstname.lastname@example.org
Embassy of the Republic of Zimbabwe in London, England: email@example.com
Please cc: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also cc your own Member of Parliament.
Here's a sample letter, to modify as you see fit:
To: The Ambassadors of the Republic of Zimbabwe in Ottawa, Canada & London, England
Ms. Florence Zano Chideya
Mr. Gabriel Mharadze Machinga
I am writing to demand that your government drop the charges of "treason" against those who met to discuss current events in Northern Africa. It is appalling that on February 20, over 50 people who were participating in an academic debate were arrested, beaten, and charged with treason. This form of repression is unacceptable in any democracy. Freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are fundamental human rights that must be respected.
I understand that those arrested are being held in Harare Central prison. I also understand that among those arrested is Munyaradzi Gwisai, the director of the Labour Law Center and a former elected Member of Parliament. I am calling on your government to drop all charges and release all detainees immediately.
I have copied my own Member of Parliament, [add the name of your MP here].
Canadians are demanding that all charges are dropped immediately, and that every person arrested on Saturday is released quickly, without further harm and without retribution.
[your name, your city], Canada
For more information:
Socialist Worker UK
New York Times
In Ottawa, there will be a small picket at the Zimbabwe Embassy. More details to follow. You can email me for information.