Zimbabwe court keeps activists in custody
Head of a local rights group and the other activists have been charged with recruiting or trying to recruit people to undergo military training to topple President.
A Zimbabwean court on Wednesday ruled that a leading human rights campaigner and 15 other activists should remain in custody pending a remand hearing in a case that has deepened doubts over a power-sharing deal.
Jestina Mukoko, head of a local rights group, and the other activists have been charged with recruiting or trying to recruit people to undergo military training to topple President Robert Mugabe's government.
"The accused cannot be released at this stage, this is a proper case for (a) remand hearing," said Magistrate Mishrod Guvamombe. The activists will appear in court next Monday for a bail hearing.
Opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai has threatened to pull his party out of negotiations over the issue.
Two activists facing lesser charges were ordered to be released in line with a High Court ruling last week but state prosecutors said they would appeal the decision.
Thirteen of the activists who will remain in custody are MDC members. Two are colleagues of Mukoko, a former state television broadcaster who has emerged as one of Mugabe's toughest and most influential critics.
A High Court judge last week declared the detention of Mukoko and her eight co-accused unlawful and ordered their immediate release, but the government appealed.
Tsvangirai won the first round of voting in March elections, but fell short of the majority needed to become president, triggering a run-off which Mugabe won after the MDC leader pulled out, citing violent attacks on his supporters.
In their affidavits, the activists say they were severely beaten on the soles of their feet and that they have several scars on their body. They also said they were beaten with fists and blunt objects.
Lawyers have accused the state of appealing the High Court order that they be released to a private hospital to make sure their wounds heal while in custody. Prosecutors say they were unaware of alleged torture.
Reuters Last Mod: 31 Aralık 2008, 11:16