A court in the capital, Harare, on Thursday found the Zimbabwean writer and Tsitse Dangarimbaja Prize-winning author guilty of organizing a protest with the intent of inciting public violence.
Dangarimbaja, an outspoken critic of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government, was arrested in 2020 for marching while holding a sign calling for reforms.
Her friend and co-worker Julie Barnes was accused who joined in the protest.
The couple was given a six-month suspended prison sentence and a $70,000 fine ($120).
Inside the Harare courtroom, Dangarimbaja and Barnes held hands while Judge Barbara Mateko delivered her verdict.
“Given the sequence of events, the photographs presented in court, the evidence by the journalists…the two were intended to incite violence and the defendants are guilty of the charges against them.”
The defiant Dangarimbaja told reporters after the ruling: “This means that the space for freedom of expression is shrinking and it is increasingly being criminalized. However, we intend to appeal the ruling.”
Dangarimbaja, 63, has been a leading voice in condemning gross corruption and human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.
Her book “This Mornable Body” was nominated for the 2020 Booker Prize.
The ruling sparked widespread condemnation, with the Booker Prize Committee saying it was “shocked” to hear about the conviction. In a Twitter post.
PEN International, an association of writers that awarded Dangarembga the Pinter Prize in 2021, also condemned the ruling in a statement.
“The conviction of writer, filmmaker and activist Tsitse Dangarimbaga and her co-defendant Julie Barnes by a Zimbabwean court is a misrepresentation of justice today. PEN is shocked by this news and strongly condemns the systematic misuse of law authorities in Zimbabwe to harass, intimidate and punish Dangarimbaga and Barnes, simply for exercising their right project on freedom of expression.
journalist Hopewell ChinonuM., who was also an outspoken critic of the ruling Zanu-PF party, said the conviction “is one of the biggest mistakes made by (President) Mnangagwa’s repressive regime, and they may not care about it, but they will regret it”.
This is what Zimbabwean human rights lawyers have said sad With conviction.
CNN has contacted the Zimbabwean government for comment.