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Lawyer on renewed persecution of Maguwu

I hope I find you all well. It has been a while.

End of Peace of Mind

I have been silent deliberately in order to give you all peace of mind and to let Farai Maguwu enjoy his freedom as we wait for the day the authorities may choose to grant him his day in court so he clears his name. Our peace came to an end today.

Refusal to release Farai’s Assets

Farai Maguwu
Farai Maguwu

You may remember that at the last hearing the court granted an order that the State must file an inventory of all Farai’s assets and documents that they had seized and that they return all assets that are not evidence before the 29th July 2010?

Well the order has not been complied with and today the State started laying foundation for the refusal to return Farai’s property by accusing him of being in possession of a vehicle “suspected to be stolen” or alternatively if it turns out the vehicle was not stolen, then accusing him of failing to transfer ownership of the vehicle within 14 days (a finable/ticket offence).

We received reports that the Investigating Officer, one Dowa was seen in Mutare last week and this week. We have been waiting anxiously for what their next move was. I was therefore not surprised yesterday (26th July 2010) when they called me to advise me to bring Farai to the Police Station at the Law and Order Section for some questioning. I arranged to meet the officers at 11am today the 27th July 2010 and arrived on time.

From 11am till 5pm (stuck at Mutare Central Police Station)

I went with Farai and Blessing Nyamaropa from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. We waited till past 12 noon when the Police finally attended us. The officer who had invited us ended up not doing the case.  Another, a Detective Renzo was allocated the case though he kept clearly deferring to and leaving the office to consult some “superiors” which prolonged the proceedings. We were stuck there with Farai from 11am till around 5pm.

Treatment

They took fresh finger-prints from Farai and ordered us to leave the room because they wanted to interview Farai on his own and without legal assistance. We refused and objected but the Police stuck to their guns and short of becoming physical we had no choice but to leave which we did.

They then interrogated Farai for many hours and did indications without affording him legal representation. Farai was only allowed legal assistance in recording a warned and cautioned statement on the charges they preferred against him. The charges were that Farai allegedly received or possessed a vehicle which the police suspect to be a stolen vehicle.

They said this was a violation of a section 125 of the Criminal Code. Farai flatly denied these charges. In the alternative they charged him with failing to register ownership of the vehicle within 14 days. This too Farai denied. The police said they are continuing with investigations because they are suspicious of the vehicle. There is no named complainant and they have not claimed that the vehicle is reported stolen.

Farai was open and cooperated with the police even as they denied him legal representation during the lengthy interrogation and indications. He is grateful and relieved that they set him free into our custody but remains concerned at the digging of any piece of dirt to pin on him.

He is also worried that despite bringing lawyers to the Police Station, the police have showed no respect or regard for his right to legal representation and can chase lawyers at will and refuse him a chance to give instructions and obtain advice in private. He cannot wait for it all to end so he can return to his life and his work which have been severely upset.

From 11am till 5pm it was not clear what Farai’s fate would be but happily the ordeal ended with Farai released to my custody. Farai’s Rights to Legal Representation & Protection of the Law & our Right to Practice Law

Speaking as lawyers, the recurring practice of barring lawyers from any interrogation of a client is a violation of an existing High Court order, of the Legal practitioners Act, of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights as well as the AU Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Fair Trial and Legal Assistance in Africa. Reference can also be made to the UN 1990 Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers which all shame this practice by the police. It violates both the rights of the accused persons and of the lawyers in the performance of their duties.

The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights which, in Article 7(c), provides for the right to be defended by counsel of one’s choice.  This is the right which has been expanded upon by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in its Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Fair Trial and Legal Assistance in Africa which provide that in particular, in item (G) (b) that states shall ensure that lawyers “are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference”  whilst sub-section 3 of the same item obliges state parties to ensure that lawyers “shall not suffer or be threatened with prosecution or administrative, economic, or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics”.

The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in 1990 adopted Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers which specifically provide for access to lawyers and legal services, with a specific guarantee under Item 15 where states are required to ensure that lawyers “are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference”

Need we say more?

Remand Hearing 29th July 2010

Farai goes to Harare for his remand hearing on 29th July 2010 at 8.30am at Harare Rotten Row Court 6 and judging by the unpredictability of the moods of his persecutors…we keep an open mind which helps absorb the disappointments better. We expect no release of most of Farai’s assets for what we know will be false and lame reasons but such are the times.

Farai’s Silence

We appreciate your patience in this time when Farai is unable to speak freely or at all about the cases he faces before they are finalized at the courts. It is out of respect for the courts and in protection of his interests. Do bear with him. 

Next Update

If nothing happens in the meantime the next update will be after remand hearing on Thursday 29th July 2010, this week.

Thank you

Farai needs continued support. He can hardly resume normal work in these circumstances and cannot afford any portion of the legal and logistical support services he desperately needs. Thank you to those who have already intervened and offered him support for his sustenance. Do keep him in your prayers even when all seems calm, especially then.

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