Six Zimbabwe activists who were convicted for watching a video of the Arab Spring were each sentenced to community service and a fine today (Wednesday).
The six were convicted on Monday of “conspiracy to commit public violence”. Each has been given a suspended sentence of two years. Each also faces 420 hours of community service and a fine of 500 US dollars. The suspension is on condition that no similar offence is committed in the next five years.
The defendants will appeal against the sentence. Defendant Munyaradzi Gwisai said, 'It won't intimidate us. It will not deter us. I have no regrets.'
However the sentences came as a relief since the previous day prosecutor Edmore Nyazamba had demanded that the magistrate impose the maximum 10-year jail sentence. He shocked the court when he said that in Biblical times they would have been stoned, adding 'those who revolted against authority were swallowed up when the ground opened up. Their families, including their cats and dogs, were not spared.'
The court gallery was packed with supporters of the defendants. Hundreds more gathered outside the court in solidarity, including students and trade unionists. Riot police confronted them at the gates of the court.
The six were arrested when police raided an International Socialist Organisation meeting in February last year which showed news footage of the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia. The state claims they had planned and were about to launch a similar uprising in Zimbabwe
The six are law lecturer Munyaradzi Gwisai, anti-debt campaigner Hopewell Gumbo, Zimbabwe Labour Centre director Tafadzwa Choto, student leader Welcome Zimuto, and social activists Edson Chakuma and Tatenda Mombeyarara.
Support protests to get the verdict reversed and sent money to help pay the fines.
Send money to support the defendants to ISO Zim Solidarity, Unity Bank, Birmingham, account number 20136938, sort code 08‑60‑01, IBAN: GB11 CPBK 0800 5150 0732 10
Send solidarity messages to email@example.com