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Zimbabwe Denies Diamond Campaigner Bail

Jun 21, 2010 10:38 AM   By Avi Krawitz
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RAPAPORT... A Zimbabwe court has denied bail to Farai Maguwu, the head of a local nongovernment organization (NGO) focused on monitoring abuses around the Marange diamond fields, despite pressure from global human rights groups to free him.

Maguwu was arrested in early June and charged with providing false information to Kimberley Process (KP) monitor Abbey Chikane during Chikane’s recent visit to Zimbabwe. Following their scheduled meeting, police raided the offices of the Centre for Research and Development (CRD), confiscating Maguwu’s computer, work documents and car and forcing him into hiding. He subsequently turned himself in.

Chikane met with Maguwu as part of his research to assess Zimbabwe’s compliance with the KP's minimum standards at the Marange mine. Maguwu allegedly presented Chikane with documents “stolen” from the authorities  and outlining human rights abuses at Marange. Chikane has said that he was concerned the documents may incriminate him if found in his possession.

Sources familiar with the case told Rapaport News that a bail hearing was held Monday afternoon and that Maguwu’s case was turned down, which means he remains in custody.

Calls to release Maguwu have intensified in the past week as the KP opened its intercessional meeting in Tel Aviv on Monday, where Zimbabwe’s controversial participation in the scheme is being debated. Members of the civil society branch of the KP wore “Free Farai” t-shirts at the opening day, while others, including Israel’s KP chairman, Boaz Hirsch, referred to Maguwu in their addresses to the meeting.

“The arrest of Farai Maguwu created negative emotions and high tensions that threaten to divert us from the road toward an applicable solution, which will affect the international diamond community in all its various facets,” Hirsch said.

Maguwu became a prominent figure at the KP plenary meeting in November in Swakopmund, Namibia when he challenged the participation of the Zimbabwean government in the scheme. As the head of an NGO based in the Marange area, he has been vocal in monitoring the situation at the Marange mine. In May, he issued a report claiming that approximately 2,000 carats of diamonds were being smuggled each day by workers at the mine.

One Zimbabwe activist, who requested anonymity, said he suspects the authorities have deliberately detained Maguwu to prevent him from attending the Tel Aviv meeting, while World Diamond Federation (WDC) president Eli Izhakoff said Maguwu’s detention was an uncalled for and unjust attempt by the country's government to suppress criticism.

Both Izhakoff and Global Witness campaigner Annie Dunneback called for Maguwu’s immediate and unconditional release.

“If one-third of the KP can't do its job properly, the KP can't work,” Dunneback said.

LH
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Tags: Avi Krawitz, Abbey Chikane, Avi Krawitz, Compliance, Global Witness, Government, Human Rights Watch, Israel, Kimberley Process, Marange Fields, Namibia, NGO, World Diamond Council, Zimbabwe
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