November 26, 2013
Today Harare Magistrate Rumbidzai Mugwagwa delivered a verdict of not guilty in the trial of prominent Zimbabwe human-rights lawyer and Freedom Under Law director Beatrice Mtetwa.
Ms Mtetwa had faced charges of defeating or obstructing the course of justice by her conduct toward officers who were searching the house of a client of hers, an official from the opposition party of former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
She was arrested on 17 March this year and has appeared in court on numerous occasions since then. [See below for the FUL media release dated March 17, 2013, as also the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights statement dated March 26, 2013.]
According to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Bulletin and other sources, the magistrate concluded that Ms Mtetwa had done nothing to interfere with the investigations the police were conducting. She found the police evidence contradictory and insufficient to put Ms Mtetwa on her defence. An inspection in loco cast further doubt on the State case.
The magistrate also declared that photographing the scene would not have constituted the offence charged and that, in any event, forensic examination of Ms Mtetwa’s phone produced no evidence that photographs of the scene had been taken. The magistrate found there was no evidence that Ms Mtetwa had stopped or interfered with the search the police were conducting, and acquitted her at the end of the State case.
Freedom Under Law applauds a courageous judicial decision.