Africa

Zimbabwe 'Egypt uprising' treason charges reduced

Munyaradzi Gwisai, (C), who goes on trial on 18 July for treason, photographed at a court hearing in February
Image caption Law lecturer Munyaradzi Gwisai (C) was once an MP for the Movement for Democratic Change

Six Zimbabwean activists accused of treason for attending a lecture in February about the Egyptian uprising have had their charges downgraded.

They are now accused of inciting public violence, and so face 10 years in prison, rather than the death penalty, when the trial opens in August.

The seminar by a university lecturer asked "what lessons can be learnt" - which the prosecution says means they were planning a similar revolt.

They all deny the charges.

Charges have already been dropped against 40 other activists arrested at the same time.

'Scared'

University of Zimbabwe law lecturer Munyaradzi Gwisai, who was once an MP for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), is among the accused whose trial has been put back until 22 August.

In his seminar, given on 19 February, videos of the recent demonstrations in Egypt were shown.

The six activists are linked to the International Socialist Organisation - a group which advances the cause of poor people and the equitable distribution of resources, the BBC's Brian Hungwe reports from Harare.

They say their meeting was meant to discuss pertinent issues on how Zimbabwe's working class could learn from the developments in North Africa.

Ahead of the trial, another of the accused, Hopewell Gumbo, said he was not worried about the outcome.

"We are innocent and... a fair trial [will] absolve us of this serious charge," Mr Gumbo told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

But he admitted that his family was "scared".

Two years ago, President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC party formed a unity government intended to stabilise the economy and introduce electoral reforms.

In April, South African President Jacob Zuma, the region's appointed mediator on Zimbabwe's crisis, warned Mr Mugabe that events in North Africa could not be ignored and that he needed to put his house in order, our correspondent says.

Mr Zuma said issues to do with human rights needed to be addressed, among other things.

Around the BBC

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites