Robert Mugabe (Pic: Jeremy Lock)
Zimbabwe police have pressed new charges of “undermining the authority of President Robert Mugabe” against two LGBT activists arrested last week.
Ellen Chademana (34) and Ignatius Muhambi (38) were arrested for alleged possession of pornography in a raid on the offices of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) in Harare on Friday.
On Monday police added the new charges under Section 33 of the Criminal Law for the activist allegedly displaying a plaque of former San Francisco Mayor Willie Lewis Brown, Jr in their office in which the African-American denounces Mugabe’s homophobia against gays and lesbians.
Chademana and Muhambi have also been formally charged with being in possession of obscene, indecent or prohibited articles in breach of Section 26 (1) (b) of the Censorship and Entertainment Control Act Chapter 10:04.
According to a statement from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), lawyers from the organisation finally managed to see their clients after initially being denied access on Saturday.
The two spent their fourth night in jail after police failed to take them to court on Monday for a bail hearing.
Meanwhile, ZLHR filed a complaint on Monday against the conduct of the investigating officers in the GALZ case.
ZLHR accused the investigating officers of deliberately misinforming them about the whereabouts of their clients while the two activists were being taken by police back to GALZ offices for a further search of the offices without the lawyers’ knowledge and consent.
“The illegal and unilateral action was taken with the full knowledge that the suspects were legally represented and consequently entitled to have their legal practitioners present during all police activities,” said ZLHR.
In their complaint, ZLHR requested the Officer in Charge of the Drug Section at Harare Central Police Station to urgently instruct his subordinates, particularly those dealing with the GALZ matter, that Chademana and Muhambi are constitutionally entitled to have their lawyers of choice present and notified at each and every stage of the police enquiry.
ZLHR also took issue with the fact that the police had initially indicated that their clients were to be arraigned before the Magistrates court on Monday morning only to be deliberately miss the 11 o’clock deadline set by the courts.
“The move seemed calculated and a mischievous attempt to frustrate the GALZ employees’ rights and entitlements at law,” said ZLHR.
Chademana and Muhambi are now expected to only appear in court on Wednesday because Tuesday is Africa Day, a public holiday in Zimbabwe.
ZLHR requested the police chief to carry out an investigation into the police actions, which it said “are an obstruction of justice and gross abuse of office and procedure” and noted that any evidence produced or used as a result of unlawful and un-procedural actions will be challenged in court.