Zimbabwean Six guilty of plotting mass protests | Africa | DW | 20.03.2012
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Zimbabwean Six guilty of plotting mass protests

Six Zimbabwean activists who were arrested a year ago at a public debate on the Egyptian uprising have been found guilty of inciting violence by a Harare court. They face sentencing hearings this week.

Munyaradzi Gwisai, center, a former member of Parliament in Zimbabwe, appears in court with 45 other social and human rights activisits in Harare on February 23, 2011.

Founding guilty of inciting violence: Munyaradzi Gwisai

Dozens of anti-riot police officers armed with batons guarded the entrance to the Harare magistrate court as the verdict was read out. The six face up to 10 years in prison or a fine, or both.

Egyptian demonstrators hold the Egyptian national flag during a protest in Tahrir Square, Cairo on November 18, 2011.

Gwisai says the purpose of the meeting was to make meaning of events in Egypt and Tunisia

They were among 45 activists who were arrested in February 2011 while watching a video of the protests which forced Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down.

The meeting was meant to discuss lessons to de drawn from the Arab Spring, but those attending were accused of scheming to overthrow 88-year-old President Robert Mugabe.

The six who were convicted include Munyaradzi Gwisai, a university lecturer and former member of parliament from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change.

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, left, talks to Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe Prime Minster after the swearing in ceremony of new ministers at State House in Harare, Thursday, June, 24, 2010.

President Robert Mugabe (left) has a fractious relationship with his Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai

"It is not surprising, we are not deterred, we are not intimidated," he told reporters after to hearing the verdict.

The six had initially been charged with treason, which carries the death penalty, but this was later reduced. The 39 other people have already been cleared.

Gwisai had told the court during his trial that the charges were "meaningless," "outright silly" and "a case of political harassment by the state."

The arrest of the activists last year drew international condemnation after they appeared in court showing injuries they had sustained while being tortured by the police. They are now each suing the state for $300,000 (227,000 euros).

Author: Mark Caldwell (AFP, Reuters, with additional material from Columbus Mavhunga in Harare)
Editor: Sarah Steffen / rm

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