Meetings of ‘bad intent’ are a criminal offence in Zimbabwe, apparently

There are many things in life which I take for granted.  Like deciding which flick to go and see (last one was The Artist – a film which definitely merits the many little gold statues and golden masks it pocketed during awards season in my opinion).

Attending a lecture  is another right I take for granted.  So it came as a bit of a shock to me when I heard last year that six people in Zimbabwe had been charged and arrested for organising a lecture which included showing a video.

Surely the right to organise a lecture or watch a video is one of the most basic rights afforded to any person. Yet, that basic right was denied by the Zimbabwean authorities denied when they arrested the six activists for doing just that.

Earlier this week, the six activists were found guilty of “conspiracy to commit public violence” (and yes, it took a year for this case to be concluded). As the Independent reports, the Magistrate said that ‘while watching a video was not a crime, the "manner and motive" of the February 2011 meeting showed bad intent.’

Although they escaped the heavier penalty of ten years in prison, the activists were sentenced to pay the equivalent to three months’ worth of wages in Zimbabwe (£317) – and to 420 hours’ worth of community service.

Life remains very precarious for men and women in Zimbabwe who dare to exercise their basic rights. The regular arrests of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (or WOZA) is a good case in point.

Amnesty will soon be launching an appeal to overturn the convictions of these six activists. Keep an eye on amnesty.org.uk/cases for more

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