HARARE (Reuters) - A court in Zimbabwe on Monday convicted six activists of plotting to unseat President Robert Mugabe’s government by stirring up Arab Spring-style protests similar to those that toppled autocratic rulers in North Africa last year.
The group, led by Munyaradzi Gwisai, a former opposition lawmaker in Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s party, was found guilty of “conspiracy to commit acts of public violence” aimed at overthrowing Mugabe, who has ruled the southern African state since its independence from Britain in 1980.
All defendants denied the charges.
Prosecutors said that Gwisai, who heads the small but radical pressure group International Socialist Organisation, had shown fellow activists videos of popular uprisings which toppled the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia.
Defence lawyers denied the activists had been plotting anti-government protests, however, saying the videos had been shown as part of an academic debate the group was having on North African politics.
The group was arrested in February last year after police raided a meeting they were holding.
The activists face up to 10 years in jail. Sentencing is scheduled for Tuesday.
Despite public disenchantment with Mugabe’s 32-year old rule, public protests against him are rare, mainly due to tough security laws.