Top rights lawyer off the hook

HARARE - Prominent Harare human rights lawyer Alec Muchadehama and a High Court registrar who were facing contempt of court charges are off the hook, after the Supreme Court struck off case.

Muchadehama was jointly charged with Constance Gambara.

Muchadehama in 2009 allegedly facilitated “the improper release” of three political detainees, Andrison Manyere from Chikurubi Maximum Prison; and Gandi Mudzingwa and Kisimusi Dhlamini, under hospital detention, at the Avenues Clinic.

Dhlamini, Manyere and Mudzingwa, who were held in detention from November 2008 to 2009, were granted bail by High Court Judge, Justice Charles Hungwe, on April 9, 2009.

However, the order was suspended for 7 days following the immediate, reactionary but predictable invocation of Section 121 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act (CPEA) by Chris Mutangadura of the Attorney General’s office.

The State, however, failed to comply with the mandatory provisions of Section 121 of the CPEA in that they did not file their appeal within the prescribed time limits.

The suspension of the order granting bail to the three political detainees therefore fell away and the order of the High Court became active by operation of the law. The three political prisoners were thus released on bail in terms of the order granted on April 9, 2009 by Justice Hungwe.

The prosecutor general’s office filed an appeal at the Supreme Court seeking an extension of time within which to appeal against the High Court decision.

Allegations against Muchadehama and Gambara were that they had “intentionally impaired the dignity, reputation or authority of the court.”

Ruling on the application for leave to appeal was only delivered in October 2010, and was dismissed on the basis that the State had no prospects of success on appeal.

“Applying the principles in the determination of the question raised by this application, it is clear that there is no legislative enactment which gives the attorney general (prosecutor general) a right of appeal to the Supreme Court from the refusal by a judge of the High Court of leave to appeal to that court, from a decision of a magistrate finding an accused not guilty of a criminal offence at the close of the case for the prosecution,” deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba said, before he struck the matter off the roll with costs.

He said the application had no legal basis.

Beatrice Mtetwa represented the two, while Edmore Nyazamba appeared on behalf of the State.

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