MDC murder suspects freed

HARARE - Twenty-one activists from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC charged with killing a police inspector in Harare’s Glen View suburb last year, were finally admitted to bail yesterday.

High Court judge, Justice Chinembiri Bhunu granted bail to the 21 activists after noting that the State’s case “has weaknesses and inconsistencies”.

The activists are charged with murder or alternatively public violence as defined in Sections 47 and 36 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

They are all accused of killing police inspector Petros Mutedza on May 29 last year, but the State’s case against the activists is crumbling.

The 21 freed yesterday joined MDC youth assembly chairperson Solomon Madzore, Cynthia Manjoro and Lovemore Magaya who were recently granted bail by the same judge.

They have been in remand prison since they were indicted for trial at the High Court in April.21 MDC murder suspects freed.

Some of them have languished in remand prison for over 19 months since they were arrested in May 2011.
The judge however, set tough bail conditions, with each accused person directed to report at Glen View Police Station twice per week.

Those granted bail are councillor Oddrey Sydney Chirombe of Ward 33, Budiriro, Lloyd Chitanda, Tendai Chinyama, Jefias Moyo, Abina Rutsito, Gabriel Shumba, Stephen Takaedzwa, Linda Madyamhanje, Tafadzwa Billiard, Simon Mudimu, Dube Zwelibanzi, Simon Mapanzure, Augustine Tengenyika, Paul Rukanda, Lazarus and Stanford Maengahama, Kerina Dewa, Memory Ncube, Phineas Nhatarikwa and Stanford Mangwiro.

Meanwhile, Justice Bhunu has ordered that Edna Chihota, one of the state’s witnesses, gives her evidence in camera at the Harare Magistrates’ Courts.

The ruling was made after the State had appealed against Chihota testifying in an open court, after claims that she had been threatened.

However, Last Maengahama, an MDC national executive member, councillor Tungamirai Madzokere, Yvonne Musarurwa, Rebecca Mafukeni and Simon Mapanzure will have to spend Christmas locked up in remand prison after the State opposed bail claiming the five were a “flight risk.”

The state, which is trying to pin murder charges on the MDC activists, has lined up police officers and “vulnerable witness” Chihota, who will testify in camera, and also a foreign pathologist who is still to get clearance from his mother country to come and testify.

Bhunu says the State team misled the court.

Bhunu also accused Clever Ntini, the chief investigating officer, of misrepresenting facts to the court and withholding vital information.

“While the inconsistencies and misrepresentation do not relate to all the accused persons, they betray a set of mind to deceive and mislead the court on the part of the investigating officer,” Justice Bhunu said in his bail ruling.

Bhunu said the whole trial was premised “on the fact that the accused persons were observed and positively identified while committing the crime” but that is no longer the case as it has been proved otherwise.

Bogged by delays caused by illnesses and other court commitments, the long-running trial of the MDC activists has been both emotive and explosive as the defence and state lawyers traded accusations.

“The trial has been protracted, acrimonious and eventful,” Bhunu acknowledged.

 “Although it was envisaged that it would be completed by the end of term, the target has been missed owing to numerous unforeseen circumstances beyond anyone’s control.”

Bhunu said there were special circumstances warranting the 21 activists to be granted bail.

With the High Court going into holiday until next year, the defence counsel, led by Beatrice Mtetwa and Gift Mtisi, had applied for bail in terms of Section 167 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act.

According to the Act, people accused of killing a police officer on duty, should establish special circumstances in order to qualify for bail.

“The accused persons have generally been well behaved and those previously granted bail have demonstrated that they can be trusted to attend their trial,” Bhunu said in his ruling.

“The substantial weakening of the State case in respect of these accused persons in my view removes any incentive for the accused persons to abscond.”

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