Activist breaks down as she narrates ordeal in court


HARARE - Zimbabwean human rights campaigner Jestina Mukoko, abducted last December and allegedly tortured by state security agents, broke down in court on Thursday as she narrated her ordeal at the hands of her captors.

Mukoko wept bitterly as she told magistrate Archie Wochiunga of her terrifying experience.
The rights campaigner, who is accused along with scores of MDC party activists of plotting to overthrow President Robert Mugabe, was in court to ask the magistrate to allow her to challenge the legality of her arrest and continued detention by taking the case to the Supreme Court.
Mukoko, who won a court order on Monday to be allowed urgent medical attention, told Wochiunga it was like coming back to a funeral when security agents briefly took her back to her home in Norton town to search for arms of war, a month after kidnapping her.
My brother from Gweru, my nephew from Chitungwiza, my mother and my mother-in-law were all there. I saw a pile of… She did not finish, breaking down in tears, before continuing: it resembled a funeral because they all thought that I must have died.
Mukoko, a former staffer at the state broadcaster and now director of human rights organisation Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), wants the Supreme Court to determine whether her constitutional rights were violated and therefore should not stand trial.
I apply that the court refer the matter to the Constitutional Court to determine the violation of my constitutional rights, said Mukoko. The experience I have gone through is really frightening and I do not wish that on anyone.
Making submissions on behalf of Mukoko, lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa told the court that admission by the state that the rights campaigner had been held by security agents for almost two months made her case suitable for referral to the Constitutional Court for a hearing and decision about whether it was legal for people to be abducted and kept in isolation.
During cross-examination, Mukoko said she doubted she could get a fair trial after Attorney-General Johannes Tomana this week labelled her a security risk and said she should not be released from jail.
Mukoko and about 40 MDC activists are accused of attempting to recruit people for military training in neighbouring Botswana to overthrow Mugabe and his Zanu (PF) party.
The accused were abducted in November and December from various locations and held incommunicado for weeks. Their lawyers say they were severely tortured by state agents in a bid to force them to admit to the charges of banditry.
If convicted the group face the death penalty.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that Mukoko was being held in solitary confinement in Harare's Chikurubi maximum security prison.
Prison sources said this week that Mukoko was being held in a section reserved for hardcore criminals.
We have a women’s section, but she has been placed in the tougher section that normally houses men, said a warder.

Tsvangirai told journalists in South Africa on Thursday that the charges against Mukoko and MDC activists were trumped up and part of a fresh crackdown against its members and organisation.
The opposition leader demanded the release of the detained activists before the stalled power-sharing pact could be implemented. – ZimOnline

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