High Court Judge Justice Joseph Musakwa on Monday 25 March 2013 put the brakes on the malicious persecution of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights board member, Beatrice Mtetwa, after he set aside the dismissal of the top human rights lawyer’s bail application by Harare Provincial Magistrate Marehwanazvo Gofa and upheld an appeal filed by her lawyers.
Justice Musakwa agreed with Mtetwa’s lawyers that Magistrate Gofa had erred and misdirected herself when she denied the human rights lawyer bail on 20 March 2013.
Magistrate Gofa based her dismissal of the bail application on the basis that if released on bail, Mtetwa would interfere with police investigations which were reportedly in their “infancy” as well as cause “commotion” as she had purportedly done when she was arrested on Sunday 17 March 2013. The Magistrate ruled that the said commotion would hinder the police from carrying out their investigations.
But Justice Musakwa said Mtetwa should not have been denied bail by the magistrates, that the police should have shed light on the nature and scope of the investigations that remained outstanding, and that the magistrates\’ court should not have denied liberty to a legal practitioner of repute like Mtetwa.
Justice Musakwa ordered Mtetwa, who until Monday had endured eight nights in both police and prison detention, to pay bail of $500 and not to interfere with investigations until the matter is resolved.
With regard to Mtetwa’s conduct, Justice Musakwa said although he would describe Mtetwa as of a forceful if not combative personality, she still remained professional in the execution of her professional duties.
On State allegations that Mtetwa’s shouting at the police could have caused or resulted in the disappearance of some computers that the police wanted to recover, Justice Musakwa said being a woman, Mtetwa could and should have been subdued by the police officers.
Upon her release from prison bondage, Mtetwa told journalists that her arrest and prosecution was aimed at instilling fear among human rights lawyers in Zimbabwe.
“It’s an attack on all human rights lawyers. I was just used as an example,” said Mtetwa.
Mtetwa was arrested on Sunday 17 March 2013 and charged with contravening section 184(1)(g) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act for allegedly defeating or obstructing the course of justice. She returns to Rotten Row Magistrates Court on 3 April 2013 for routine remand.