Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

"Why Are So Many Children Dying in Gaza?"

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Central African Republic: Seleka calls for partition

Read more

DEBATE

Nigeria: One Hundred Days and Counting (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Nigeria: One Hundred Days and Counting

Read more

FOCUS

Can Chancellor Merkel's winning streak last?

Read more

FOCUS

Hunger in a fertile land...

Read more

ENCORE!

High-tech acting king Andy Serkis on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Read more

REPORTERS

Hong Kong in rebellion against the 'motherland'

Read more

TALKING EUROPE

Dalia Grybauskaite, President of the Republic of Lithuania

Read more

  • In pictures: Thousands march for Gaza peace in Paris

    Read more

  • UN human rights chief blasts Israel-Gaza ‘war crimes’

    Read more

  • Bomb attacks leave scores dead in north Nigeria

    Read more

  • Gaza protests: ‘France imported the Mideast conflict a long time ago’

    Read more

  • Ryanair ordered to pay back €9.6m in illegal state aid to France

    Read more

  • Remains of Flight MH17 victims arrive in the Netherlands

    Read more

  • Two Ukrainian fighter jets shot down over rebel-held territory

    Read more

  • Video: Fear, death and mourning in Gaza’s Khan Younis

    Read more

  • TransAsia Airways Taiwan crash leaves dozens dead

    Read more

  • Poland’s Rafal Majka wins 17th stage of Tour de France

    Read more

  • Young riders raise French hopes for Tour de France

    Read more

  • Defying UK, France to proceed with warships sale to Russia

    Read more

  • US courts issue conflicting reports on Obamacare

    Read more

  • Video: Lebanon fears fallout from regional turmoil

    Read more

High court orders release of activists to hospital

Video by Nicolas GERMAIN

Latest update : 2008-12-25

As pressure mounts on President Robert Mugabe over a cholera epidemic and political crisis, a judge ordered that nine activists seized for alleged anti-government plotting be released to a Harare hospital, amid claims they were tortured.

 
AFP - Zimbabwe's high court ordered Wednesday that a top rights activist, who was seized weeks ago, be released to hospital after facing accusations in a lower court of recruiting anti-government plotters.
  
The move came with pressure mounting on President Robert Mugabe over a deadly cholera epidemic and ruinous political crisis, and earlier in the day Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu accused South Africa of failing to stand up to the veteran leader.
  
Judge Yunus Omarjee ordered late Wednesday night that Jestina Mukoko and eight other activists be released to the custody of a Harare hospital under police guard until their next court date on December 29.
  
The judge offered no explanation for ordering them to hospital, but one of their lawyers said they may have been tortured.
  
"There are allegations that they have been tortured. They came to the police being blindfolded," said Beatrice Mtetwa, who was part of the defence team that filed an urgent application for the release of the detainees.
  
Omarjee also ordered the immediate release of 23 others, including a mother with a two-year-old baby in custody, declaring their detention "unlawful."
  
Mukoko and eight activists appeared earlier in a magistrate's court in Harare where they were accused of plotting against the government of Mugabe.
  
Specific charges against Mukoko, taken from her home on December 3 and held in an unknown location, as well as the others, were not listed in the magistrate's court, but prosecutor Florence Ziyambi spoke of the alleged plot.
  
"Sometime in October the government of Zimbabwe launched complaints that Botswana was training insurgents...for the purpose of removing the present government. That's when security people picked up the accused persons."
  
"Charges relate to recruiting for banditry," Ziyambi said.
  
A defence lawyer also told AFP that the group who appeared earlier Wednesday had been accused of recruiting or goading people to undergo military training in Botswana to topple Mugabe's government.
  
Mukoko, director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project -- a rights group which has been compiling reports of election violence -- is accused of facilitating the travel arrangements for a police constable to undergo military training in Botswana, according to a police statement earlier Wednesday.
  
Her location was unknown for several weeks, with a high court order for her release going unheeded, sparking protests from international rights bodies.
  
Both Botswana and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have denied the charges.
  
As diplomatic pressure on Mugabe has grown, his regime has claimed an anti-government terror campaign, and has accused Botswana of harbouring and giving material support to opposition-aligned rebels seeking to topple Mugabe.
  
While the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has investigated the claim and will deliver a report, South African President and SADC chair Kgalema Motlanthe said the bloc felt it had no substance.
  
Archbishop Tutu launched a stinging attack on South Africa Wednesday, accusing it of failing to stand up to Mugabe and betraying its anti-apartheid legacy.
  
Tutu, the retired archbishop of Cape Town, told BBC radio he was "ashamed" of his homeland.
  
Regional leaders have faced increasing calls to lean on Mugabe, as Western powers push for him to step down in the wake of a political crisis, economic ruin and the cholera epidemic.
  
Apart from Botswana, southern African states have been reluctant to criticise the 84-year-old, but Jacob Zuma, the leader of South Africa's ruling party, has described the situation in Zimbabwe as "utterly untenable".
  
"The reported cases of abductions and detentions without trial, tests the very fabric of the liberation we fought for in this region of Africa," the presidential hopeful said in a Christmas message.
  
Mugabe, the oldest leader on the continent, has taunted his peers for lacking the bravery to topple him.
  
At a media briefing before Wednesday's court hearing, Irene Petras of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said 14 people were found Tuesday at various police stations but that 11 others were still missing.
  
Zimbabwe has been in political crisis since elections in March when the long-ruling ZANU-PF party lost control of parliament and Mugabe was pushed into second place by MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the presidential vote.
  
Tsvangirai pulled out of a run-off over violence against his supporters.
  

Date created : 2008-12-25

COMMENT(S)