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ZimRights director denied bail – Remanded in custody to 30 Jan

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ZimRights director denied bail. Okay Machisa, who was arrested on Monday has been denied bail, and his case remanded until 30 January. According to this statement from the Regional Coordinator, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Regional Office [SA]:

The Crisis Coalition Chairperson and Zimrights director, Okay Machisa, was remanded in custody this afternoon to the 30th of January 2013.A Harare magistrate denied him bail on the basis of three flimsy reasons:

1) That the case is a matter of national interest since the nature of the alleged offence is meant to discredit national institutions (that is the Registrar General’s office)

2) That the investigations are complex hence the state needs more time to carry out a thorough investigation throughout all the Zimrights branches across the country

3) That the co-accused (Leo Chamawhinya) is remanded in custody  hence no basis to remand Machisa out of custody.

The magistrate said that the public will lose confidence in the justice system if Machisa is granted bail since it is a high profile case of national interest. The magistrate did not refer to legal arguments to the contrary submitted by Machisa’s lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa in what appeared like a clearly motivated political judgment.

The detention of Machisa shows that the state has no respect for the presumption of innocence principle. We condemn this calculated assault on activists meant to cow civil society organizations that are fighting for democratic reforms before the next watershed election. We reiterate our position that the political environment in Zimbabwe is not yet conducive for a free and fair election.

We appeal for solidarity action, regional and international pressure on the Zimbabwe state to respect the rule of law. Such action is important to mitigate against a possible surge in the harassment and detention of activists especially as we head toward the general election.

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