State in fishing expedition fresh charges are introduced against Glen View 29

In a desperate and predictable move, the state has introduced a fresh charge of public violence against the Glen View 29 who are already facing charges of murdering police officer, Petros Mutedza at a Glen View bar on the 29th of May 2011. The new charge, contained under Section 36 of the Criminal Law Reform and Codification Act, criminalises disturbance of peace and carries with it a charge of a fine or a maximum of 10 years in prison or both.

Presenting an application for a three week postponement of trial, Defence Lawyer, Charles Kwaramba stated that the defence requires more time to conduct interviews with the 29 and their witnesses and to prepare a defence outline. The defence further highlighted that the new charge levelled against the 29 which surfaced on the 1st of March when their indictment papers were filed, contained new issues and as such needs a response. The trial was supposed to begin today, 12 March 2012. High Court Judge, Justice Chinembiri Bhunu is expected to rule on the application on the 15th of March. The defence also intends to submit a bail application on the same date for 26 of the 29 who were already on bail before their indictment.

(court attendees)

The 29, who include Zimrights National Programs Coordinator, Cynthia Manjoro, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) National Executive Member, Last Maengahama and MDC Youth Assembly President, Solomon Madzore, were indicted on the 1st of March for trial.

According to legal experts who spoke to The Crisis Report, the prosecution added the new charge because 'their murder charge contains insufficient evidence and they are sure they will not be able to prove that all 29 murdered a police officer'.

The charge is clearly an attempt by the Attorney General's office to develop a fall back strategy in case the murder charges are dismissed by the courts.

'Murder is a difficult charge to prove. The prosecution must prove that all 29 held a stone and struck the police officer. If they are lucky, one or two will be convicted but if they are not, they are banking on the public violence charge to get a conviction using the same evidence. The fact is he died of an injury from one blow and as such all 29 cannot be convicted for murder. However, public violence is more practical although it is a lesser charge,' said the legal expert.

This is not the first time that the Attorney General's office has 'fished for charges' against pro- democracy advocates. On the 19th of February 2011, police arrested International Socialist Organisation (ISO) Coordinator and University of Zimbabwe lecturer, Munyaradzi Gwisai and 45 others while watching a video on the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions and discussing the Arab Spring under the topic, Revolt in Egypt and Tunisia. What lessons can be learnt by Zimbabwe and Africa.'. Initially, the 46 were charged with treason which was later dropped by the state. While charges were dropped for the other 40, the remaining 6 including Gwisai, are currently on trial facing a lesser charge of conspiracy to commit public violence.

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