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We blundered – AG’s office

Godfrey Marawanayika

THE Attorney-General (AG)’s office has admitted that it blundered in consenting to the reduction of the mercenaries’ sentences last week.

“Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>Last Wednesday a High Court judge reduced the sentences of the 62 jailed men after an appeal by their lawyer. The men were expected to be released and deported. This has now been put on ice.

In papers filed with the Supreme Court appealing against the High Court ruling, the AG’s office conceded that its officers blundered.

“The High Court should not have tampered with the magistrate’s prison terms involving foreigners,” reads the application for leave to appeal.

“It would seem that the Attorney-General’s representative at the (High Court) appeal hearing made an erroneous concession that indeed a portion of the prison term could be suspended in relation to foreigners. That was a misdirection,” reads an affidavit signed by Morgan Nemadire.

The state is now averring that the early release which the 62 men had been given was only meant for locals. The men perceived to be mercenaries were arrested last year after their plane landed in Harare supposedly to pick up weapon to be used in a coup in Equatorial Guinea. They were however convicted of contravening the Immigration Act and sentenced to 12 months in jail.

The two pilots were sentenced to 16 months behind bars whilst Simon Mann, the architect of the plot, was sentenced to seven years in prison. His sentence was later reduced to four years.

In their appeal, the 62 men each had four months of thier sentence suspended for a period of five years on condition that they did not commit any other offence involving contravention of the Immigration Act.

Counsel for the AG’s office, F Chimbaru, said the concession by the state lawyer at the High Court appeal was “erroneously made”. She said a foreigner could not get a suspended sentence on condition of good behaviour.

Zimbabwe’s Prisons Act regulations allow for inmates who are well behaved to get their sentences remitted to two thirds, which entitles the 62 men who were imprisoned last September to be released after five months and 10 days on account of good behaviour.

In seeking leave of application, she said that it was submitted that the “court misdirected itself when it suspended part of the sentence on condition of future good conduct”.

The application by the AG’s office resulted in one of the South African-based lawyers who was assisting with the handling of the case, Alwyn Griebenouw, waiting in vain for the men in Beitbrdidge.

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