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A court in Zimbabwe has fined six civic activists $500 each and ordered them to do community service for conspiring to commit public violence during a meeting at which they watched video footage of mass uprisings in Egypt.

The Harare magistrate Kudakwashe Jarabini ordered the former opposition politician Munyaradzi Gwisai and five other people to carry out 420 hours of community service or face a year in jail.

They had faced a maximum sentence of up to 10 years. The original charges of treason, carrying a possible death sentence, were dropped in months of legal wrangling.

The activists were arrested last year for holding a meeting they said was an academic lecture on democratic rights. Police arrested 45 people who attended, but 39 were later released after judicial officials said police had mounted a "dragnet" campaign.

Jarabini found the six activists guilty on Monday, saying that although watching a video was not a crime, the "manner and motive" of the meeting showed bad intent. He ruled that showing footage of uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt that included "nasty scenarios" was intended to arouse hostility towards Zimbabwe's government.

Last year a high court judge granted the six bail and described the case against them as weak and based on the evidence of one witness, suspected to have been an undercover police informer.

The court said police claims that the group planned to emulate the Egyptian revolt were "bold and unsubstantiated".

Gwisai and other members of the group complained they were tortured by police and beaten with wooden planks and iron bars. They said they were also told to confess that they had called for the removal of Robert Mugabe as president.

Mugabe has said he has the power to unilaterally call elections this year to end the coalition government. Security officials have said they will clamp down on any alleged plotters of "destabilisation".

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/mar/21/zimbabwe-activists-video-egyptian-uprising

Tag(s) : #Afrique Australe