The trial of prominent lawyer Alec Muchadehama was opened on 14 October 2009 .
Prominent human rights lawyer Alec
Muchadehama pleaded not guilty to charges of contempt of court on the
first day of his trial in Harare.
In July state prosecutors failed to nail
Muchadehama on the contempt of court charges after Harare Magistrate
Munamato Mutevedzi described the performance of prosecutors as “nonsense
and ineptitude of the worst type”.
The state case against Muchadehama is that
he allegedly connived with Constance Gambara, a clerk to High Court Judge
Chinembiri Bhunu to ‘unlawfully release’ on bail political detainees from
police custody. The allegations are that Muchadehama, connived with his
co-accused and facilitated the unlawful release of the three from
Chikurubi Maximum Prison on 17 April 2009. It is alleged that they did
this despite knowledge of the fact that a subsequent court order had been
granted giving the state leave to appeal against the granting of bail.
Ironically, Muchadehama who is
representing freelance journalist Andrison Manyere, is also being charged
for the same offence.
Muchadehama who is a member of the Media
Lawyers Network and Constance Gambanga, a clerk with the High Court, are
charged with contravening section 182(1) of the Criminal Law
(Codification and Reform) Act which deals with contempt of court.
The charge arises from the two’s alleged
involvement in the improper release of Manyere and two Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) activists Kisimusi Dhlamini and Gandhi Mudzingwa
who are all facing charges of sabotage, banditry and terrorism.
Muchadehama, who is being represented
by another leading human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa has won several
international awards for his work in defending and promoting human rights
Proceedings opened with Kumire leading
evidence from state witness Caroline Mapfuka an assistant registrar with
the Master of the High Court’s Office. Thereafter, Beatrice Mtetwa who is
representing Muchadehama, then cross examined the same witness.
Denford Halimani who is representing
Gambanga, also cross- examined the witness. The two defence lawyers
argued that there was nothing irregular about Gambanga’s actions since
she acted within the normal scope of her duties.
However, matters came to a head when it
was Kumire’s turn to re-examine the witness during which the magistrate
cautioned him against asking leading questions. The magistrate told the
prosecutor to rephrase his question after Mtetwa had objected that Kumire
was asking the state witness leading questions.
Kumire defied the magistrate arguing that
he had not asked any leading question. The magistrate further cautioned
him against undermining the authority of the court. Kumire proceeded
undeterred and grumbled his disapproval against the magistrate’s
cautionary remarks. The magistrate was forced to adjourn proceedings and
summoned the prosecuting and defence teams to her chambers.
When the court reconvened, the magistrate
slapped Kumire with five days imprisonment for contempt of court
culminating in yet another adjournment of proceedings. However, Kumire
appeared unnerved by the ruling as he simply proceeded to walk out of the
court despite the fact that the magistrate had directed that he remains
in court while a police officer watched over him.
Meanwhile, the trial was postponed to 17
Muchadehama was arrested last April by Law
and Order police officers at the Rotten Row Magistrates Court on
allegations of obstructing the course of justice.