Judge frees Zim opposition activists
A Zimbabwe court has approved bail for 17 Zimbabwe opposition activists, a day after they were re-imprisoned for planning to overthrow President Robert Mugabe’s regime.
The group includes members of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and prominent human rights activist and director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, Jestina Mukoko.
They were abducted from their homes late last year and detained until March, during which time they were allegedly tortured into making false confessions about planning to overthrow Mugabe’s government.
On Tuesday Harare Magistrate Catherine Chimanda revoked their bail after they were indicted on charges of terrorism, sabotage and banditry.
Elinor Sisulu, director of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, told the Mail & Guardian Online that although the activists have been granted bail, next month’s trial will still go ahead.
‘The trial is being used by Mugabe and his generals to test what they can get away with,” Sisulu said.
She said the trial violates the inter-party political agreement between Zanu-PF and the MDC and called on the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee to investigate.
Earlier on Wednesday, South African human rights organisations condemned the re-detention of Mukoko and others as a blatant human rights violation.
‘The ruling is an outrage, but it’s not surprising. It’s very much in keeping with Zanu-PF’s tactics. Since they signed the agreement, they have reneged on it,” Sisulu said.
She told the M&G Online that she attended a court hearing in mid-April in Zimbabwe where Mukoko and the other activists were present. She said the prosecutor failed to obtain an indictment and the hearing did not continue because of an ‘allegedly broken machine”.
‘What was evident is that there is no way they could get a fair trial. No one believes they are guilty but the judiciary in Zimbabwe is in tatters. This case has no legal basis and it’s unconscionable to put people on trial based on evidence gained through torture,” Sisulu said.
Human Rights Watch on Wednesday said the case was politically motivated and called on the government to free the detainees.
‘Those who brought these outrageous charges should quickly drop them,” Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch said in a statement.
‘This continued persecution makes it pretty clear that Zanu-PF is trying to undermine the new power-sharing administration and is an example of Zimbabwe’s overall lack of progress in respecting the rule of law and basic rights.”
The Save Zimbabwe Now Campaign planned a protest march outside the opening of South Africa’s Parliament on Wednesday, calling on the government to take action against Mugabe’s regime.