Human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, has condemned the continued arrest of human rights activists in Zimbabwe saying the targeted arrests are witch hunt by the President Emmerson Mnangagwa led regimes.
This follows the arrest of two more activists at Robert Mugabe International Airpot, to bring to seven, activists who have been arrested for plotting to overthrow Mnangagwa and his government.
The latest wave of arrests has brought about fear in citizens amid calls for the administration to respect citizens’ rights to freedom of expression and association, Amnesty International said.
The two latest victims, Stabile Dewah (35) and Rita Nyamupinga (61), were arrested as they returned from a capacity-building workshop on non-violent protest tactics in the Maldives.
“The first five human rights defenders arrested are facing trumped-up charges for exercising their human rights. They should be released immediately and unconditionally. The charges against them fit into a much wider pattern of repression we have documented in Zimbabwe,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa.
The first batch of activists – George Makoni, Tatenda Mombeyarara, Gamuchirai Mukura, Nyasha Mpahlo and Farirai Gumbonzvanda – have been accused of “plotting to overthrow President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government”
“Since January’s protests, we have witnessed a mounting crackdown on human rights defenders and activists. Lawyers, journalists and even medical doctors have not been spared. Zimbabwe’s authorities have declared anyone who exercises their right to freedom expression and association an enemy of the state. This witch-hunt must stop,” said Muleya Mwananyanda.
The first four of the human rights defenders were arrested as they disembarked from their flight on 20 May. Farirai Gumbonzvanda was also arrested at the Harare airport on 21 May at around 16:00 hours local time.
Authorities accused them of attending a workshop organised by a Serbian NGO in the Maldives called the Centre for Applied Non-Violent Action and Strategies (CANVAS).
They were formally charged with plotting to overthrow President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government on 21 May and remanded at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison.
Police confiscated their laptops and mobile phones, which were reportedly handed over to the Postal and Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe “for extraction of evidence”.
The evidence, including some notes recorded during the meeting, will be produced in court as evidence against the activists.
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