Zimbabwe activists convicted over Egypt protest lecture

Munyaradzi Gwisai, (C), is one of those convicted. File photo Former MDC MP Munyaradzi Gwisai (C) was one of those convicted

A Zimbabwean court has convicted six activists of inciting public violence for discussing the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.

The activists were arrested in February last year as they attended a lecture about the North African protests.

They had been initially charged with treason and faced the death penalty.

But the charges were later reduced, and they now could be imprisoned for up to 10 years. The activists deny the charges, describing them as "silly".

Sentencing is now scheduled for Tuesday, but the activists have already indicated that they plan to appeal.

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

'Political harassment'

University of Zimbabwe law lecturer Munyaradzi Gwisai, a former MP for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), was among those found guilty of inciting public violence to topple President Robert Mugabe by the Harare court on Monday.

The case centred on Gwisai's seminar on 19 February 2011, during which videos of the mass protests in Egypt were shown.

The seminar asked "what lessons can be learnt" - which the prosecution said meant they were planning a similar revolt.

During the trial, Gwisai rejected the charges as "outright silly", saying it was "a case of political harassment by the state".

The activists are linked to the International Socialist Organisation - a group which advances the cause of poor people and the equitable distribution of resources.

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

In 2009, President 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.

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

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

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