Zim appeals against release of activists

Zimbabwe has appealed against a court ruling ordering the release of top rights activist Jestina Mukoko and several others accused of plotting against the government, a state-run daily said Saturday.

”We have been advised by the attorney general’s office that they have noted an appeal against the High Court order issued on Wednesday,” the Herald state-run daily quoted national police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena as saying.

”We are still holding them in custody until the appeal is heard,” he said.

High Court judge Yunus Omerjee on Wednesday ordered police to release to hospital Mukoko and several opposition activists accused of recruiting or goading people to undergo military training to fight President Robert Mugabe’s government.

The detainees’ lawyer has said they may have been tortured in custody.

Mukoko, director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project — a rights group which has been compiling cases of election violence — was seized from her home on December 3 by armed men who identified themselves as police.

Two members of her staff were taken away from their office days later. They are being accused together with 28 members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party of recruiting anti-government plotters.

The detainees, including a two-year-old boy, were taken away from their homes and some from their workplaces by armed people who identified themselves as police.

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, in an official statement, has identified the toddler as Nigel Mutemagau and said he appeared in court on Wednesday with his father, Collen Mutemagau, and mother, Violet Mupfuranhehwe.

”The state is in contempt of court. The reason they brought some of them to court is for public relations purposes to save their image but the truth is that they have no intention of releasing them,” said the detainees’ lawyer Alec Muchadehama.

Mukoko’s location was unknown for several weeks and a High Court order for her release went unheeded, sparking protests from international rights bodies.

Paris-based media rights watchdog Reporters sans Frontières on Friday urged their immediate release.

”The accusations brought against Mukoko are absurd and baseless. We call on the Zimbabwean authorities to free her and withdraw all the charges at once.

”The prosecution of these opposition activists has all the hallmarks of a government conspiracy to sabotage the power-sharing agreement,” it said.

Mugabe and his rivals from the opposition MDC signed a power-sharing deal in September following contested elections earlier this year, but negotiations to form a unity government have stalled. – AFP



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