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Zimbabwean prosecutors drop treason charges against six activists

From Columbus S. Mavhunga, for CNN
The activists were accused of plotting against President Robert Mugabe (pictured)
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The activists were accused of plotting against President Robert Mugabe (pictured) .
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The activists were accused of plotting an Egyptian-style revolution
  • They still face lesser charges
  • Their trial is scheduled to start on August 22
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Harare, Zimbabwe (CNN) -- Prosecutors in Zimbabwe dropped treason charges Monday against six activists accused of plotting an Egyptian-style uprising against President Robert Mugabe.

The activists still face lesser charges, an official said.

They were part of a group of 46 union members and political activists arrested in February after authorities said they were caught watching footage of the protests that led to the ouster of Tunisian leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak this year.

Their case attracted widespread attention after their attorney accused state security agents of beating at least 12 of the 46 with broomsticks while they were in custody.

Prosecutor Edmore Nyazamba told Magistrate Morgan Nemadire Monday that the state is now charging the six activists with "conspiracy to commit violence or alternatively inciting public violence or participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence, breaches of peace and bigotry."

A Harare magistrate had previously cleared the 40 other activists.

Nyazamba did not say why the state decided to drop the treason charges, which carry the death sentence in Zimbabwe.

The trial for the six is scheduled to start on August 22.

The activists' defense attorney, Alec Muchadehama, said the state is "desperate to harass its own citizens."

"The state has no case. We have a very clear case of persecution and not prosecution," he said.

Also Monday, prosecutors dropped corruption charges against Zimbabwean Energy Minister Elton Mangoma.

Mangoma, a top aide to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, told reporters the charges had been politically motivated and were aimed at embarrassing his boss.

"I knew from the onset that these were trumped up charges and feel I didn't have a case to answer," he said.