Zimbabwe court fines six activistsfor watching videos of Arab Spring

A court in Zimbabwe yesterday fined six activists $500 (£315) each and ordered them to do community service for conspiring to commit public violence during a meeting in which they watched video footage of the Arab Spring uprisings.

Kudakwashe Jarabini, the Harare magistrate, ordered Munyaradzi Gwisai and five others to carry out 420 hours of community service or face a year in jail. He suspended another 12 months imprisonment on condition that they do not commit another similar offence.

The group was arrested last year for holding a meeting it said was an academic lecture on democratic rights.

Mr Jarabini found the activists guilty on Monday, saying that while watching a video was not a crime, the "manner and motive" of the February 2011 meeting showed bad intent. He ruled that showing footage of uprisings in both Tunisia and Egypt that included "nasty scenarios" was intended to arouse hostility toward Zimbabwe's government.

Mr Gwisai and other members of the group complained earlier that they were tortured by police and told to confess that they had called for the overthrow of President Robert Mugabe.