Zimbabwe rights activist who leaked details on diamond crimes denied bail, High Court rules

By Chengetai Zvauya, AP
Monday, June 21, 2010

Zimbabwe diamond-crimes whistleblower denied bail

HARARE, Zimbabwe — A judge in Zimbabwe Monday refused to grant bail to a human rights activist accused of passing false information on diamond-mining violations to the international diamond control body.

Activist Farai Maguwu, arrested June 3, denies charges of possessing false information on killings, torture and the names of perpetrators along with stolen state security documents, offenses carrying a penalty of up to 20 years in jail.

Judge Chinembiri Bhunu ruled the allegations bordered on treachery and justified his detention until police investigations into the case were complete.

He said state prosecutors alleged Maguwu made a living from publishing false information detrimental to his country.

“That kind of behavior, if proved, is treacherous and abominable, ” Bhunu said.

He said Maguwu’s claims of mistreatment in custody were not enough to secure his release. The ruling coincided with the opening Monday of Kimberley Process talks to decide if Zimbabwe can sell its controversy-plagued diamonds on the world market.

Human rights organizations have urged the world body not to allow international sales of alleged “blood diamonds” although its regional monitor, Abbey Chikane, is to recommend sales be approved.

He reported Zimbabwe has met minimum requirements set for world certification of diamond sales.

Bhunu said documents allegedly produced by Maguwu and his Center for Research and Development in the eastern city of Mutare near the diamond fields purported to contain hospital records, mortuary reports and burial orders of victims and interviews with survivors who identified “at least 8 perpetrators of atrocities” in the Chiadzwa diamond district, mostly senior police officers.

The judge said the documents spoke of sightings of dead bodies and victims who had been “abused heavily by police, soldiers and security guards.”

The mines ministry, controlled by President Robert Mugabe’s party in a fragile coalition with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the former opposition leader, denies wrongdoing and accuses human rights groups of “peddling falsehoods” over violations by police and troops in the eastern diamond fields.

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