Amnesty International welcomes the release on bail of a Zimbabwean activist detained for five weeks after he exposed human rights violations in the country's Marange diamond fields.
Farai Maguwu was released on Monday on conditional bail of US$1,500 by a Harare court, after the judge dismissed prosecutors' claims that he could interfere with witnesses involved in police investigations into his alleged crimes.
Detained since 3 June, Farai Maguwu was charged with "publishing or communicating false information prejudicial to the state," after he reportedly told a diamond trade monitor about the abuses carried out by security forces in the Marange diamond fields.
"While Farai Maguwu's release on bail is a welcome step, all charges against him must be dropped immediately," said Michelle Kagari, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Africa Programme.
"He is being prosecuted for carrying out his lawful work of monitoring and documenting human rights violations by security forces at some of Zimbabwe's diamond fields."
Bail had been refused at several previous hearings including on Friday after the state prosecutor said more time was needed to complete investigations. Lawyers later appealed the court’s decision.
Farai Maguwu's lawyers have said that he was detained as punishment for revealing human rights violations to a diamond monitor from the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KP), which certifies rough diamonds as being free from links to violence.
Abbey Chikane, the KP monitor on Zimbabwe, stated in his report on the country’s compliance with the KP scheme that he met with Farai Maguwu in the presence of state intelligence officers, raising fears that the activist’s safety had been compromised.
The monitor’s statement also called into question the Kimberley Process' methods for protecting people who provide information about human rights violations at Zimbabwe’s diamond fields.
Maguwu was released two days before members of the Kimberly Process and the World Diamond Council are to meet in St Petersburg, Russia, to discuss certification of diamonds from Marange.
Farai Maguwu is head of the Centre for Research and Development (CRD). The organization, as an official observer of the Kimberly Process, has played a key role investigating human rights violations against those working in and living close to the Marange diamond fields.