Home » Human Rights » Tomana Pursues Rights Lawyer Mtetwa

PROMINENT human rights lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, is being targeted again by the authorities following a decision by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to appeal her acquittal, last year, on charges of allegedly obstructing the course of justice.

In a statement, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said it had learnt with shock the State’s decision to appeal against the discharge.

“The fresh onslaught on Mtetwa confirms ZLHR’s unwavering belief that prosecutorial authorities in Zimbabwe remain grossly unprofessional, partisan, and biased against human rights lawyers and defenders, whose rights they remain intent on violating.

“This assault against Mtetwa – which is disguised as a prosecution – has a chilling effect on the lawful activities of other lawyers and is yet another proven example of the abuse of criminal prosecution powers by the NPA, and the continued waste of scarce taxpayers’ resources on such malicious prosecutions”.

Mtetwa, chair of the ZLHR board was arrested on 17 March 2013 and charged with contravening a section of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

She was however, acquitted by Harare Provincial Magistrate Rumbidzai Mugwagwa in late November of the same year at the close of the State case.

Magistrate Mugwagwa ruled that the NPA had failed to establish a prima facie case against the award winning human rights lawyer.

But the National Prosecution Authority (NPA), headed by Prosecutor-General Johannes Tomana, last Friday filed an application at the High Court seeking leave to appeal the lower court’s decision.

In the application, Tozivepi Mapfuwa, representing Tomana, argued that magistrate Mugwagwa erred and misdirected herself when she granted Mtetwa’s application for discharge.

Mapfuwa insists that the State had presented evidence which established a prima facie case against the human rights lawyer of hindering or disturbing police officers in the execution of their duties.

The NPA lawyer added that Mugwagwa erred and misdirected herself in failing to observe that the utterances allegedly made by Mtetwa were “clearly meant to disturb or hinder police officers in the execution of their duties”.

The State claims Mtetwa ordered cops to “stop whatever you are doing, it’s unconstitutional, illegal and undemocratic” allegedly adding “You confused cockroaches … murimbwa dzaMugabe” – which the police understood to mean they were “Mugabe’s dogs”.

The NPA also argues that the lower court failed to observe that the evidence of the first three State witnesses, Luckson Mukazhi, Wilfred Chibage and Ngatirwe Mamiza, who are all police officers, materially corroborated each other.

The cops insisted that Mtetwa a closed the gate at a residence in Harare’s Westgate in a bid to prevent Chibage from leaving the premises with exhibits which he had reportedly recovered.

Mapfuwa argued that there are prospects of success on appeal against Mtetwa’s discharge.

At the time of her acquittal, the ZLHR noted that the ruling had vindicated the belief that Mtetwa’s arrest, arbitrary detention, and long-drawn-out trial were tools of persecution rather than prosecution.

Early this year a Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA) said the arrest and detention of Beatrice Mtetwa breached the rule of law.

The CLA expressed grave concern that Mtetwa’s arrest, detention and trial were allowed to happen in the first place.

“It was evident that nothing Ms Mtetwa was alleged to have done was capable of obstructing justice, instead, her arrest and subsequent detention were clearly an attempt to harass and intimidate her to punish her for asserting her client’s rights,” the group said.

Source : New Zimbabwe

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