By Violet Gonda
29 January 2013
The director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights), Okay Machisa, was finally granted US$500 bail on Tuesday by High Court judge justice Felistus Chatukuta, on condition he puts up an immovable asset worth no less than US$50,000 and surrenders his passport.
The human rights campaigner had been denied bail four times since his arrest on 14 January on charges of forgery, conspiracy to commit fraud, and publishing statements that are prejudicial to the State.
Irene Petras from Zimbabwe’s Lawyers for Human Rights said the bail conditions seemed harsh and difficult for a rights advocate to raise, but it is a positive development that the bail was finally allowed at last.
Petras told SW Radio Africa that Machisa is also expected to appear for a remand hearing in the magistrates’ court on Wednesday, “so we may have an indication then on how far the state is preparing its case and when a trial is likely to begin.”
Machisa’s lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, has dismissed the charges, arguing there was no evidence linking her client to the commission of an offence.
ZimRights deputy, Leo Chamahwinya, another member of Zimrights Dorcas Shereni, plus two others – who are not linked to the rights group – are still in police custody facing the same charges.
ZimRights has also been charged as an organization, in a case the police say is to do with an illegal voter registration exercise. The organization denies participating in any illegal activity.
ZimRights members, who spoke on condition of anonymity, say the organization has been involved in voter mobilization across the country, which is not illegal.