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Charges Dropped Against Zimbabwe Human Rights Activist

  • Peta Thornycroft

A Harare judge has thrown out charges against human rights activist Farayi Maguwu who was monitoring the human rights situation in Zimbabwe's controversial diamond fields.

Prosecutors brought the charges after Farai Maguwu allegedly wrote and disseminated documents claiming security services were involved in human rights abuses at the Marange diamond fields in eastern Zimbabwe. Maguwu had denied the charges.

Maguwu, head of the Marange-based Center for Research and Development, was arrested in June after a meeting with a representative of the Kimberley Process. The watchdog group was investigating Zimbabwe's eastern diamond fields in the Marange communal area.

Maguwu's organization regularly provided information about abuses in the eastern Marange mines to the Kimberley Process, which is tasked with preventing the sale of "blood diamonds" on world markets.

Last year, Kimberley investigators documented forced labor, beatings and other abuses by the military against civilians and banned the sale of diamonds from the Marange diamond fields. But, in June, the Kimberley process said the country had met minimum human rights standards in its diamond fields, and sales of diamonds from Marange took place in Harare in August and last month.

In another surprising development for Zimbabwe's courts, High Court judge Chimberiri Bhunu says he will go to court himself and seek permission to use the state press to publish summons on Movement for Democratic Change treasurer Roy Bennett.

Judge Bhunu is suing Bennett for $1 million for defamation in an interview with the Guardian newspaper The judge claims that Bennett, on trial for treason earlier this year, told the media that he would not get a fair trial.

The day after Bennett allegedly spoke to the media about the trial, Judge Bhunu acquitted him of all charges.

Movement for Democratic Change prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai appointed Bennett as deputy agriculture minister in the inclusive government when it was formed in February 2009. President Robert Mugabe said he would not swear Bennett into office until he was cleared of all charges.

Bennett says he is now in Johannesburg and says he will stay away from Zimbawe for the moment and work for the MDC from South Africa.

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