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(Updated March 4) Zimbabwe: Socialists and Egypt solidarity activists charged with treason! Protest urgently needed!
46 arrested activists charged with treason, tortured
February 25, 2011 -- It has now been confirmed that detained labour movement activist and leading member of the International Socialist Organization Zimbabwe Munyaradzi Gwisai (pictured) and 45 other activists detained by the Zimbabwe state on February 19 have been charged with treason. If found guilty of treason, the activists risk a sentence of death or life imprisonment. They are being tortured to extract bogus confessions. The arrests followed a raid on a closed meeting that was discussing the implications of the revolutions in the Arab world. Gwisai is director of the Labor Law Centre and former Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) MP.
Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal calls on all its readers, supporters and international friends to urgently send protest messages calling for the dropping of all charges and the immediate release of the comrades. We also call on you to contact trade unions and unionists, human rights groups and members, and anyone else who can send such messages.
See below for a selection of protest statements.
You can also email protest letters to the Zimbabwe embassy in your country.
People can also call the following numbers to exert pressure – at least to let the powers that be know that people are aware of what is going on.
- Patrick Chinamasa (minister of “justice”): 263 4 860 006 (home)
- President’s Office: +263 4 252 440 or +263 4 700 071
- Police Commisioner Augustine Chihuri: +263 4 250 008 (office) or +263 11 808 290 (mobile)
- Home Affairs (police) Minister Kembo Mohadi: +263 11 605 424 (mobile) or +263 4 794628 (office)
- State Security (CIO) Minister Didymus Mutasa: +263 11 200 532 (mobile) or 263 4 774189 (office)
- Wayne Bvudzijena (police spokesman): +263 11 801 172 (mobile)
- Happyton Bonyongwe (director of the Central Intelligence Organisation): +263 4 497 849 (home)
- In Australia, please send an urgent e-mail to Zimbabwean officials calling for the activists and socialists to be released immediately and unharmed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the United States. Include these e-mail addresses in the "To" line: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
February 25, 2011 -- Detained social justice activist Munyaradzi Gwisai on February 24 lamented the torture sessions to which 46 activists are being subjected by state security agents as tragic and inexpressible.
Gwisai, who testified before Harare Magistrate Munamato Mutevedzi during an application for refusal of placement on remand for the 45 human rights activists filed by defence lawyer Alec Muchadehama disclosed in court that he, together with other activists, were subjected to torture during their detention by the police at Harare Central Police Station.
Gwisai said the torture sessions were aimed at securing confessions which would implicate them in the commission of treason, a charge which they are now facing.
Gwisai said he was tortured together with five other detainees in a room in the basement at Harare Central Police Station by nine state security agents who included some police officers who had arrested them.
During the torture sessions, which were recorded on video, the detainees were asked to recount what had transpired during their meeting which was held on Saturday, February 19, 2011, in central Harare.
Gwisai said each of the six detainees received a series of lashes which were administered while they lay down on their stomachs. He added that he received between 15 and 20 lashes as the police and his tormentors sought to obtain confessions from him and the other detainees.
Gwisai said the pain which he endured and suffered as a result of the torture sessions was “indescribable, sadistic and a tragedy for Zimbabwe”.
The University of Zimbabwe labour law lecturer said it was extremely difficult for him to sit and walk because of the torture sessions he underwent together with other detainees.
Gwisai said the meeting held on February 19 was held to discuss International Socialist Organization business and issues of democracy and constitutionalism and not to plot the toppling of the government as alleged by the police and prosecutors. He added that the meeting, which was attended by HIV/AIDS activists, was also meant to commemorate the life of a deceased HIV and AIDS activist, Navigator Mungoni.
Earlier on Muchadehama outlined the detainees’ complaints against the police.
The detainees’ lawyer said the arrest of his clients was unlawful as they were not advised of the reason/s for their arrest. He also advised that they were detained in filthy and stinking police cells. He said the detainees only knew of the treason charge filed against them when they finally appeared in court on February 23, 2011 and were not warned and cautioned that statements were recorded in relation to the treason charge.
Muchadehama told the court that the police extensively subjected his clients to severe interrogation sessions where they attempted to coax some of the detainees to turn against their colleagues and be considered state witnesses.
He said some of the detainees were assaulted, brutalised and tortured while in police custody. The defence lawyer said the torture sessions were administered through assaults all over the detainees’ bodies, under their feet and buttocks through the use of broomsticks, metal rods, pieces of timber, open palms and some blunt objects.
In his application for refusal of remand Muchadehama argued that the facts as outlined by the state did not constitute the commission of an offence.
The matter continues on February 28, 2011, when prosecutor Edmore Nyazamba, who applied for the placement of the detainees on remand, cross examines Gwisai. In the meantime, all 45 will remain incarcerated in remand prison in Harare and at Chikurubi Women’s Prison for the women detainees.
* * *
February 23, 2011 -- On February 19, the Zimbabwe state attacked a meeting on Egypt of the International Socialist Organization Zimbabwe and arrested everyone there. Some 52 people representing students, union members and workers were arrested and were detained at the Harare Central prison. Munyaradzi Gwisai (pictured above), director of the Labor Law Centre and former Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) MP, was among those detained. They were denied medical and legal assistance.
The activists were hooling a closed-door meeting in downtown Harare when the police raided the premises. They were discussing the events in the Middle East and the fall of Egyptian dictator Mubarak and had just shown a film of the uprising.
They are being individually interrogated and, according to one comrade who saw them briefly, are being beaten.
COSATU condemns arrest of ISO activists in Zimbabwe
February 22, 2011 -- The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) condemns the continued persecution of political activists in Zimbabwe and the never-improving situation in that country. The detention of about 52 activists of the International Socialist Organisation (ISO) in Harare on baseless charges of plotting to topple the government indicates the state of insecurity in that country.
Among those arrested is Gwisai, a former MP for Highfield, who is also the general coordinator of International Socialist Organisation (ISO). The arrests are a clear sign that the democratic and constitutional rights of the people of Zimbabwe are still a distant dream and that the government of national unity has not changed the situation for the better.
COSATU's leadership received a full briefing on developments in Zimbabwe from the deputy secretary general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), Japhet Moyo, last week during the trilateral meeting between Nigeria's Ningerian Labour Congress, Ghana's Trade Union Congress and COSATU. Moyo indicated that things are reaching desperate levels once again and that conditions for a free and fair elections are not obtaining in that country.
In this regard, we continue to pledge our full solidarity with the working and struggling people of Zimbabwe at this critical time and call upon Southern African Development Community and the African Union to act now in support of democracy and the people’s will in Zimbabwe and everywhere else in our region and continent.
It is no doubt that the Egyptian and Tunisian experience have inspired many workers and poor people all over the world to stand up and demand an end to dictatorship, corruption and injustice of whatever kind. It is for that veryreason that we call upon all workers and poor people to overthrow all forms of oppression, occupation and injustice in their countries, as we pledge our full and unconditional support to the fighting people of Bahrain, Yemen, Morocco and Libya in their continuing struggles for democracy and justice.
Bongani Masuku (International Relations Secretary)
Congress of South African Trade Unions
1-5 Leyds Cnr Biccard Streets
MDC calls for the immediate release of Gwisai
Statement by MDC Information & Publicity Department
February 21, 2011 -- The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) calls for the immediate and unconditional release of human rights activist Munyaradzi Gwisai and others who were arrested on February 19 in Harare on baseless charges of plotting to topple the government of Zimbabwe.
Gwisai, a former MP for Highfield, is the general coordinator of International Socialist Organisation (ISO). The arrests are a clear sign that the police are denying the people of Zimbabwe their democratically and constitutional rights of freedom of movement and gathering.
It is inconceivable for the police to assume that a mere 46 people can topple a government by simply viewing old video footage from Tunisia and Egypt. The video material is already in the public domain and can be accessed by anyone from anywhere in the world. The actions by the police are a clear sign that the guilty are always afraid.
We are concerned by the continued abuse of state machinery by the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) to suppress the people’s views for narrow political gains by ZANU-PF officials. We find it strange that the police can find the machinery and manpower to arrest innocent people when it is failing to do the same to ZANU-PF hooligans who are fanning political violence in Mbare and in the rural areas.
As a party of excellence, the MDC urges the people of Zimbabwe to remain resolute and not to be cowed into submission by a partisan police force that wants to drag Zimbabwe into a failed state. We urge the people to remain united in their fight for democracy and real change.
Democratic Left Front (South Africa) condemns arrest of Zimbabwe activistsFebruary 22, 2011 -- On February 19, a leading member of the International Socialist Organisation of Zimbabwe, Munyaradzi Gwisai, and 51 others including students and workers were arrested in Harare during a unpublicised meeting held to discuss revolution in the Middle East. They are still being held and will have to be charged today if they are to be held in detention any further. It is believed they will be charged for conspiring against the state and number of them have been beaten physically by their police interrogators.
The Democratic Left Front (DLF) stands in solidarity with our comrades in Zimbabwe and all those people fighting against the repressive and dictatorial regime headed by Mugabe. It is clear the despots on our own borders fear the prospect of the winds of massive civil disobedience that is rocking the Middle East will travel down South and confine them to the dustbin of history.
The DLF will not stand idly by if treason charges are laid, we will not hesitate in establishing a defence campaign to drop the charges and have the prisoners released.
Gwisai is currently living between Zimbabwe and South Africa and has been actively involved in the Gauteng region and national launch of the DLF. He is a former MDC MP, and the director of the Labour Law Centre, attached to the University of Zimbabwe.
What can people in South Africa do?
Phone and complain to the Harare Central police station where they are being detained +263-4-777-777;
Send letters of complaint to the representatives of the Zimbabwean government in South Africa
Ambassador. Mr P Mphoko, fax - 012 342 5126
Consul General Mr. C Mapanga, fax - 011 838 5620
Socialist Alliance (Australia): Release arrested activists!
February 22, 2011 -- Socialist Alliance in Australia is disturbed to learn that on February 19 as many as 52 people -- students, trade union members and workers -- including Munyaradzi Gwisai (director of the Labor Law Centre), were arrested by Zimbabwe police and are being detained at Harare Central Prison. They were attending a closed meeting at the Labor Law Centre to discuss the people's uprisings against US-backed regimes in the Middle East.
There are reports that those arrested have been beaten and that others are being denied access to medical care and legal help. We also demand that the police all property confiscated during the raid.
Socialist Alliance, whose members in Australia have been in the forefront of struggles against apartheid and US aggression in Africa for many years, calls on the Zimbabwe government to immediately release those arrested and drop all charges against them. We insist that the Zimbabwe government respect the rights of workers and the Zimbabwe people to meet freely to discuss these important events, without state harassment. We also call on the Zimbabwe government to respect the Zimbabwe people's rights to free speech and free assembly.
Socialist Alliance will be keeping the Australian public informed about the treatment of those arrested and the response to this appeal by the Zimbabwe government.
Socialist Alliance (Australia) international relations committee
Release Munyradzi Gwisai, free all 46 arrested activists!To: Her Excellency Ms Jacqueline Zwambila, Ambassador of Zimbabwe to Australia and New Zealand
Socialist Worker-New Zealand today adds its voice to the growing international campaign for the release of Munyaradzi Gwisai and 45 other civil society activists arrested in Zimbabwe.
The 45 students, trade unionists and workers were detained along with Gwisai at a meeting in Harare on February 19 while watching videos of recent political developments in Egypt and Tunisia.
Gwisai is the director of the Labor Law Centre in Zimbabwe and a former Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) member of parliament.All have been charged with treason, which carries a possible death penalty or a sentence of life imprisonment.
Gwisai has given testimony in court of torture that he and five other detainees suffered in a bid to extract confessions. All have been denied medical attention while in custody, including those suffering from HIV. The 46 were not given any reason for their arrest at the time they were taken into custody, rendering their arrest unlawful. Defence lawyer Alec Muchadehama states that police denied him access to the detainees prior to their first court appearance.
Socialist Worker, along with other supporters of the Workers Charter, was proud to host a meeting by Gwisai at Auckland's Trades Hall in 2007. The visit strengthened ties between civil society groups in New Zealand and Zimbabwe forged during the long struggle against apartheid in Southern Africa.
We echo the condemnation by Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International Deputy Director for Africa, of the torture and ill-treatment inflicted by the Law and Order Section at Harare Central Police Station.
Gwisai, a lecturer in law at the University of Zimbabwe, has told the court that meeting was to discuss constitutionalism, democracy and good governance. We urge respect for this expression academic freedom in Zimbabwe.
We are concerned at reports that the presiding magistrate in the case, Munamato Mutevedzi, was summoned on February 28 to meet with Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, a former Attorney General in Robert Mugabe's government. Any political interference in the case will further undermine the tarnished international reputation of Zimbabwe's judicial system.
We support the statement by Bongani Masuku, International Relations Secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, that the allegations against the detainees are baseless.
We repeat the call by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay that all those being held in custody illegally should be released without delay.
We further demand that the rights contained in Articles XII and XIX of the Global Political Agreement, signed by Zimbabwean Prime Minister Robert Mugabe on 15 September 2008, must be upheld now and in the future, namely:
* Freedoms of assembly and association.
The Zimbabwean government, its ministers and agents should be aware that the world is watching.
Central committee, Socialist Worker-New Zealand
Protest from Centre for Civil Society (South Africa)
In Durban, the Centre for Civil Society wholeheartedly supports the right of the International Socialist Organisation and its audience to learn about democracy advocacy in North Africa, a right denied last weekend through mass arrests.
For one of the greatest movements for freedom in Southern Africa's history, the Zimbabwean ruling party, to now become one of the most consistent enemies of democracy, is confirmed by the arrests last weekend. These acts will probably require the same treatment received by the corrupt rulers of Tunisia and Egypt.
The arrests of those attending the ISO meeting only throws petrol on the fire of freedom. It will be seen by historians as one of ZANU-PF's most egregious errors of judgement. Their immediate release and compensation for the treatment they have received -- through a genuine move to Zimbabwean democracy -- is vital to limit the damage done by the ZRP [police].
Patrick Bond, Centre for Civil Society, Durban, South Africa
Solidarity (Australia): Stop human rights violations; Release all those arrested
To: Zimbabwe Police officials, Director of the Central Intelligence Organisation; Minister of Justice-Home Affairs-State Security and other Ministers and officials of the government of the Republic of Zimbabwe.
We are extremely concerned to receive the news that 52 students, union members and workers, including Munyararzi Gwisai, Director of the Labor Law Center, who were attending a meeting of the International Socialist Organization Zimbabwe have been arrested.
Freedom of speech, the right to assemble and hold discussions is a fundamental democratic right. It is outrageous that police have raided a closed meeting being held at the Law Centre. The arrests are a violation of internationally recognised democratic and human rights.
We will work tirelessly to inform unions, human rights and government organizations in Australia and internationally of the unacceptable actions of the Zimbabwe police and intelligence organizations.
We demand that all those arrested be immediately released.
Ian Rintoul, Solidarity Organisation, Australia
Die Linke, Saxony
To the Ambassador of the Republic of Zimbabwe in Germany
I strongly protest against the arrest on Saturday of 52 members and supporters of the International Socialist Organisation, who had met to discuss events in the Middle East. I demand the immediate release of those arrested.
Einde O'Callaghan, spokesperson on Migration Policy, DIE LINKE Saxony
School of Oriental and African Studies UNISON branch
The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) Branch of the trade union UNISON have been informed of the arrests of 52 people attending a meeting on the current situation in Egypt organised by the International Socialist Organisation of Zimbabwe.
We are writing to express our outrage at these arrests and to let you know that we will be contacting the Zimbabwean authorities to demand they release those arrested immediately. SOAS UNISON expresses its full solidarity with those arrested.
The recent Egyptian events are not only a legitimate issue for discussion but should serve as a warning to regimes who believe that they can continue in power on the basis of repression of popular democratic rights such as freedom of assembly.
Sandy Nicoll, branch secretary, SOAS UNISON