/ 4 January 2009

Zimbabwe rights activist ‘poisoned’ in custody

Zimbabwean rights campaigner Jestina Mukoko, who is to appear in court on Monday on charges of plotting to overthrow President Robert Mugabe, is being poisoned and tortured in custody, the Sunday Independent reported.

According to the paper, Mukoko, who is in solitary confinement at the notorious Chikurubi Maximum Security prison, is being force fed drugs by prison personnel.

The paper said her lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa has called for a toxicology report to support the allegations.

“Mukoko is psychologically traumatised, it is not certain that she has told the full story because, every time she speaks to a doctor or a lawyer, a state official is present,” said Mtetwa.

Mukoko was seized from her home on December 3 by armed men who identified themselves as police officers.

Last week she made her first appearance in court after being detained at an unknown location for weeks.

A high court on Friday refused an application by her lawyers that she be taken to hospital for treatment after alleged torture.

She is accused together with 28 members of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) of recruiting other people to undergo military training in neighbouring Botswana aimed at toppling Mugabe’s government.

Mukoko’s detention raised particular alarm among international rights groups and Western nations which have accused Mugabe’s government of intimidation and harassment.

The rampant human rights abuse cases in Zimbabwe highlight the country’s deepening political crisis more than three months after Mugabe signed a power-sharing deal with Tsvangirai. – AFP