Zimbabwe political prisoner released following 595 day detention News
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Zimbabwe political prisoner released following 595 day detention

Former member of parliament and opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) Job Sikhala was released Tuesday following an almost 600 day detention in Zimbabwe’s Chikrubi Maximum Security Prison, where he remained without a chance for bail.

Sikhala was arrested in June 2022 on charges of inciting public violence and has been detained since. Sikhala’s charges surround a social media video posted after the murder of CCC activist Moreblessing Ali after suspect Pius Mukandi Jamba, activist of Zimbabwe’s ruling party, Zanu PF, allegedly admitted his role in the murder to police. Zanu PF denies any involvement in Ali’s death. The court deemed that Sikhala encouraged the public outrage and violence that ensued after Ali’s death.

Sikhala’s legal team told press that pre-trial incarcerations like that imposed on Sikhala are a human rights concern, a matter that keeps deteriorating in Zimbabwe. A 2023 Human Rights Watch report stated “authorities in Zimbabwe continued weaponizing the law against critics of the government, denying those arrested the presumption of innocence, the right to bail, and access to a fair trial.”

On Tuesday, following Sikhala’s day in court, he was sentenced to two years in prison for incitement of public violence. Sikhala’s sentence, however, was “wholly suspended” by the judge, given the amount of time he had already spent detained. Sikhala’s suspended sentence is also under the condition that he does not re-commit the crime.

Sikhala’s lawyer, Harrison Nkomo, maintained they will appeal the conviction and sentence to the Zimbabwe High Court, aiming for an acquittal, stating Sikhala’s “prosecution should not have happened in the first place; we must not glorify things that are wrong.”