Zimbabwean court says activists should remain in custody

The state has charged Jestina Mukoko and the other activists with recruiting or trying to recruit people for military training to topple president's government.

Zimbabwean court says activists should remain in custody

A Zimbabwean court on Tuesday ruled that a leading human rights advocate and eight other activists should remain in custody, in a case that has raised further doubts over a power-sharing deal.

The state has charged Jestina Mukoko, who leads a local rights group, and the other activists with recruiting or trying to recruit people for military training to topple President Robert Mugabe's government.

The arrests have raised tensions in Zimbabwe, where Mugabe and the opposition are locked in a long dispute over allocation of cabinet posts under the power-sharing agreement, seen as the best chance of easing a deep economic crisis.

Defence lawyers had argued that the activists had been abducted, not legally arrested, and that Zimbabwe's High Court had already ordered that they be freed.

"All the accused should remain in custody pending determination of the matters in the superior courts," said magistrate Olivia Mariga in her ruling.

Mariga postponed proceedings to Jan. 14.

"The court is of the view that remand proceedings should be postponed, as the defence is pursuing applications in superior courts," Mariga said.

The activists' lawyers have lodged applications in the high court, seeking to set aside a magistrate's earlier ruling that they be placed on remand. They are also seeking permission for their clients to get medical treatment from doctors of their choice.

Defence lawyers say they have been tortured.

In affidavits, the activists said they were severely beaten on the soles of their feet. They said they were beaten with fists and blunt instruments.

Morgan Tsvangirai has threatened to pull his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party out of negotiations over the issue. Many of the activists in custody are MDC members and the party has said they were abducted. Two are colleagues of Mukoko, a former state television broadcaster who has emerged as one of Mugabe's toughest and most influential critics.

Mukoko was taken away at gunpoint in a dawn raid in Harare on Dec. 3 by a group of men in plainclothes who stormed her house and identified themselves as policemen.

A High Court judge last week declared the detention of Mukoko and her co-accused unlawful and ordered their immediate release, but the government appealed against the ruling.

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.


Reuters
Last Mod: 07 Ocak 2009, 15:21
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