News / Africa

Zimbabwe Diamond Investigator's Bail Delayed

Farai Maguwu, who has been investigating human rights abuses in diamond fields in eastern Zimbabwe will miss a key meeting of the international diamond regulator, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme in Tel Aviv Monday, because he remains in detention in a hospital in Harare.

Maguwu was arrested after allegedly handing a secret document to an official of the Kimberley Process monitoring Zimbabwe's controversial diamond fields.

Human rights activist Farai Maguwu was arrested in Mutare, the capital of the eastern Manicaland Province on June 3.

For more than two years he has been investigating many allegations of human rights abuses by security forces against civilians or informal miners digging in diamond fields in the Marange area within the Manicaland province.

He claimed in a documentary broadcast on South African Broadcasting Corporation earlier this year that Zimbabwe's security forces had killed about 400 civilians who worked in the mines during a military campaign against them in late 2008.

The Kimberley Process was set up six years ago to stop the sale of conflict or "blood" diamonds.

According to a report by South African Abbey Chikane, appointed by the Kimberley Process to monitor Zimbabwe's diamonds, Maguwu gave him a top secret document when they met in Zimbabwe late last month.

In Chikane's report, leaked to the media this week, he says Maguwu told him that the document had been obtained "fraudulently."

The document allegedly contains details about  military campaigns in the diamond fields.

Chikane states further in his report that after reading the document, he sought legal advice in Harare and said he was informed he could be prosecuted for being found in possession of a stolen secret document.

Days later Maguwu was arrested.

Chikane said this week that he was not a "freedom fighter but an international monitor" and that Maguwu's actions had endangered his own safety and threatened the integrity of the Kimberley Process.

Maguwu, who has denied allegations that he handed Chikane any secret document,  has been moved from police cells to a private hospital in Harare and claims through his lawyers that he has been mistreated by the police.

The attorney-general's office said he faces charges of publishing and communicating statements prejudicial to the state and attempted to get bail this week.

His bail application was delayed until the coming week.

The Kimberly Process will on Monday consider Chikane's  report on Zimbabwe. Human rights groups want Zimbabwe suspended from the Kimberley Process citing human rights abuses. They also criticized Chikane's actions following his meeting with Maguwu.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Thursday that the delay on a bail decision for Maguwu will prevent him from participating in the Kimberley Process meeting in Israel.

Toner says Maguwu has rigorously investigated diamond field rights violations.

Toner says the United States expects Zimbabwe to treat Maguwu fairly and to quickly review his case.

A report in Friday's Herald newspaper in Zimbabwe, which supports President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF,  says even though Zimbabwe's diamonds have not yet been cleared for export by the Kimberley Process, substantial numbers of valuable stones have already been sold to buyers in the United Kingdom and Belgium.

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