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Zimbabwe court denies bail to rights activist investigating conflict diamonds

A Zimbabwean court on Monday denied bail to human rights activist Farai Maguwu, who is being held for allegedly supplying false information about Zimbabwe's controversial diamond mining practices to the international diamond control body the Kimberley Process (KP) [official website]. In denying the bail request, Judge Chinembiri Bhunu of the Harare High Court [GlobaLex backgrounder] cited the severity of the crimes, which he characterized as borderline treason. The state had argued against Maguwu's release, stating that he posed a flight risk. According to Maguwu's lawyer, he has been in declining health [VOA report] due to the temperature of his cell, which has caused him to develop throat and chest infections. He was moved Monday to the prison hospital for care after a recent throat operation. Maguwu's bail denial comes as an appeal [Standard report] from a Harare magistrate judge, who denied Maguwu's bail application earlier this month. Maguwu faces charges of false information on killings, torture and the theft of state security documents, in violation of § 31 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act [text, PDF]. He was arrested [JURIST report] in early June. An investigation was launched after he allegedly leaked to the KP a document compiled by the police [SW Radio Africa report] for the Joint Operations Command (JOC), a military-run security agency that was thought to be defunct. If convicted, Maguwu could face 20 years imprisonment.

Also Monday, KP member states began a meeting in Israel during which the body is reported to be preparing to lift the ban [BBC report] on Zimbabwean diamonds. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Monday urged the KP to remove Zimbabwe [JURIST report] from its membership. According to HRW's report, human rights abuses by the Zimbabwean government have persisted since the discovery of diamonds in the Marange fields. In calling for Zimbabwe's suspension from the oversight body, HRW explained that the KP "risk[ed] becoming irrelevant" if it failed to address this problem. Civil society groups such as Global Witness, Partnership Africa Canada and Green Advocates [advocacy websites], have also called for the suspension of Zimbabwe's international diamond trade due to the human rights violations [Telegraph report] allegedly committed by the Zimbabwean army against civilians and illegal workers in the Marange diamond fields.

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