Zimbabwean police lead up activists to undisclosed area
High Court ordered activists' immediate release to a local hospital, the lawyer said.
Armed police took a leading Zimbabwean human rights campaigner and eight activists to an undisclosed location on Thursday after the High Court ordered their immediate release to a local hospital, their lawyer said.
Jestina Mukoko and the eight activists were charged on Wednesday with recruiting or trying to recruit people, including a police officer, to plot the overthrow of President Robert Mugabe's government.
But High Court Judge Yunus Omarjee ordered the release of Mukoko, the eight activists charged with her, and 23 other activists because their detention was illegal.
Beatrice Mtetwa, one of the activists' lawyers, said she had learnt that Mukoko and her eight colleagues, who were being held in custody in prison, had been taken to an unknown location under armed police guard on Thursday morning.
"I have just received information that they were taken by a red vehicle under armed police escort. The investigating officer expressed shock and surprise when I asked him," Mtetwa told Reuters.
The other activists had been held in police cells around the capital Harare and their status could not immediately be established.
Mukoko, a former newscaster who headed the Zimbabwe Peace Project, was picked up at gunpoint in Harare on Dec. 3. If tried and found guilty the activists could have faced the death penalty, lawyers said.
Lawyers said there were allegations that Mukoko and her eight co-accused had been tortured, and they were supposed to be taken to hospital for treatment after the court ordered their release.
The case raised new doubts about the implementation of a power-sharing agreement between Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, seen as a chance of rescuing the once relatively prosperous country from economic meltdown.
The opposition says abductions of activists have continued since a June presidential election run-off in which Mugabe was re-elected unopposed after Tsvangirai withdrew, complaining of attacks on his supporters.
Mukoko's independent organisation monitored human rights and had compiled reports of violence at this year's elections.
Reuters Last Mod: 25 Aralık 2008, 15:51