Zimbabwe court acquits LGBT activist

Amnesty International has welcomed a Zimbabwe court’s decision to acquit a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights activist charged with possession of pornographic materials.

Ellen Chademana, an administrative assistant at the prominent NGO Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), was acquitted by a magistrate’s court in Harare on Thursday.

The charges followed an armed police raid on the GALZ offices in Milton Park Harare in May. Ellen Chademana was arrested and detained for six days in Harare Central Police Station with a colleague, Ignatius Mhambi. Both were released on bail while the police investigation continued. Ignatius Mhambi was acquitted of his charges in July.

“Ellen Chademana and other staff members of GALZ have faced repeated harassment for carrying out legitimate work to protect the rights of Zimbabwe’s LGBT community,” said Michelle Kagari of Amnesty International

“Though delighted with her acquittal we continue to urge the unity government and police to end the persistent harassment of human rights defenders in Zimbabwe.”

Ellen Chademana told Amnesty International that she was happy with the judgement but that she was now worried about her security.

On Wednesday evening before the court judgement, police visited the GALZ offices and demanded entry by threatening the security personnel with arrest.

“This was obviously an act of intimidation by the police and an abuse of their authority,” said Michelle Kagari.

“The police must acknowledge the role of all LGBT rights defenders by putting an end to their harassment and ensuring their protection and security.”