By Jared Kleinman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
HARARE, Zimbabwe – Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku issued a permanent stay of prosecution on Monday in the case of the prominent human rights activist Jestina Mukoko and eight other defendants facing charges of plotting to topple President Robert Mugabe’s government. Mukoko had been illegally abducted, beaten, and tortured in jail, by Zimbabwe’s security forces last year. Chidyausiku ruled that Mukoko and her co-accused could not be tried now, or in the future, because their constitutional rights had been violated.
Last year in December Mukoko, the leader of Zimbabwe Peace Project, was abducted from her Norton home in the early hours of the morning, wearing nothing but her night clothes. For weeks police claimed they did not have her in custody, only for the then State Security Minister, Didymus Mutasa, to admit in court papers that he had sanctioned the abductions as a matter of state security. Mukoko spent more than a month in several secret locations where she was tortured by state security agents to force her to confess to an anti-government plot. Her captors accused her of recruiting and attempting to recruit people, including a police officer, to undergo military training in Botswana so they could topple Mugabe’s government.
Monday’s ruling sets a precedent for other human rights and opposition activists who face similar charges and were subjected to the same conditions. They have applied to the same court to have their charges dropped but are awaiting rulings. “This is really a positive thing for activists and civil society but I hope the state will comply with the ruling because in the past they (the state) have re-arrested people on fresh trumped up charges,” John Makumbe, a political analyst and Mugabe critic, said. Innocent Gonese, a member of parliament from Tsvangirai’s party, said the judgment could be “the beginning of good things to come, politically,” but added that scores of other party activists remain jailed or face charges.
The Zimbabwe Peace Project director said she would be going home to rest and thanked everyone who had supported her during her ordeal. Mukoko also vowed to continue her activism work.
For more information, please see:
SW Radio Africa – Terror Charges Dropped Against Mukoko And 8 Others – 28 September 2009
CNN – Zimbabwe court bars activist Mukoko’s prosecution – 28 September 2009
Reuters – Zimbabwe Court Rules Activist Can’t Be Prosecuted – 28 September 2009
AP – Terror charges dropped against Zimbabwe activist – 28 September 2009