Thursday, July 16, 2009

No Prosecution of Mugabe Bodyguards - Hong Kong

Surprise, surprise.

The [Hong Kong] government has been accused of protecting the rich and powerful after it refused to prosecute bodyguards for the daughter of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe over their alleged manhandling of two journalists.

On June 8 the Department of Justice decided not to prosecute a police and an intelligence officer serving as minders to Bona Mugabe for the assault of Sunday Times journalists Colin Galloway and Tim O'Rourke outside her Tai Po home February 13. Mugabe's daughter is a student at City University.

In a separate incident in January, Mugabe's wife Grace was granted diplomatic immunity from prosecution after allegedly punching Hong Kong photographer Richard Jones near the Kowloon Shangri- La where she had been staying.

Director of Public Prosecutions Grenville Cross told a Legislative Council panel yesterday that the bodyguards, Mapfumo Marks and Manyaira Reliance Pepukai, had acted reasonably having a genuine concern for the younger Mugabe's safety.

The two journalists had approached the doorstep of the Tai Po residence intent on delivering a letter and conducting interviews before being forcibly removed to the adjacent unit.

According to Cross, the bodyguards were concerned about the two strangers who approached unannounced, and whose shifting purpose for the visit and refusal to produce identification led to their manhandling. One suffered minor injuries.

Chairman of the Hong Kong Bar Association Russell Coleman told lawmakers th
e decision not to prosecute did not impact freedom of the press.

However, legislators were unconvinced Mugabe's minders had exercised sound judgment in their use of force in the February incident.

Democratic Party lawmaker and solicitor Albert Ho Chun-yan said a bodyguard's perception of a threat was subjective and could be abused.

"The decision gives rise to ambiguity that bodyguards could take action and injure ordinary citizens whenever they are carrying out security works," he said.

Democratic Party legislator and solicitor James To Kun-sun said: "If that's the case, in the future ordinary citizens have to make a detour once they see wealthy people around."

Civic Party lawmaker Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee said: "I don't see any evidence of the journalists trying to attack the person of Miss Mugabe or trying to break into the house or attacking anyone with their cameras." A police investigation into whether the bodyguards had work permits is underway [given that they are unallowed to work as bodyguards on visitors visas].

Source: The Standard

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