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Harare refuses transfer of activist Mukoko to hospital

©

Latest update : 2008-12-28

Zimbabwe's government has appealed a High Court ruling ordering the release of human rights activist Jestina Mukoko and several other political prisoners to hospital until their next appearance on Monday.

AFP- Zimbabwe has refused transfer to hospital of a top rights activist and several others accused of plotting against the regime as ordered by a court, but issued a long-awaited new passport to the opposition MDC leader.
   
Harare has appealed a High Court ruling ordering their release to the hospital until their next appearance on Monday, state-run daily The Herald Saturday quoted the national police spokesman as saying.
   
"We have been advised by the attorney-general's office that they have noted an appeal against the high court order issued on Wednesday," Wayne Bvudzijena said.
   
"We are still holding them in custody until the appeal is heard," he said.
   
But one of their defence lawyers, Alec Muchadehama, said they have not been formally notified of the appeal.
   
"It is just a way of trying to frustrate the release of our clients. The state intends to appeal but no appeal has been noted as far as we know," he told AFP.
   
High Court judge Yunus Omerjee on Wednesday ordered police to release to hospital Jestina Mukoko and several opposition activists accused of recruiting or inciting people to undergo military training to fight Robert Mugabe's government.
   
The detainees' lawyer has said they may have been tortured in custody.
   
Mukoko, director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project -- a rights group which has been compiling cases of election violence -- was seized from her home on December 3 by armed men who identified themselves as police.
   
Two members of her staff were taken away from their office days later. They are being accused together with 28 members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party of recruiting anti-government plotters.
   
The detainees, including a two-year-old boy, were taken from their homes and some from their workplaces.
   
Mukoko's location was unknown for several weeks and a High Court order for her release went unheeded, sparking protests from international rights bodies.     The MDC on Saturday said the detentions would further hamper stalled talks with the ruling party on forming a unity government after contested elections earlier this year.
   
"This persecution on trumped-up charges is simply going to jeopardise the process and spirit of a negotiated settlement which is already destabilised," MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said.
   
"Clearly the attitude ...is going to puncture the dialogue ...They are trying to create a movie story along the lines of Hollywood but unfortunately they are playing with people's lives," he added.
   
Mugabe and his rivals from the MDC signed a power-sharing deal in September in Harare but negotiations to form a unity government have stalled as both sides squabble over key cabinet posts.
   
Meanwhile, authorities have issued a new passport to MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai after a long delay which threatened the negotiations with Mugabe's ZANU-PF, a senior MDC official said Saturday.
   
"I can confirm Mr Tsvangirai was given his passport on Christmas Day," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
   
Tsvangirai, who is Zimbabwe's prime minister-designate, had been without a passport since his previous one expired last year, and was issued with  emergency travel documents (ETD) every time he left the country.
   
In October, Tsvangirai refused to use the ETD to travel to a regional summit in Swaziland to try to resolve a deadlock in the talks with ZANU-PF.
   
Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba explained on October 20 that the delay in issuing a new passport was due to Zimbabwe "running out of paper for passports ... because of sanctions" imposed on the regime by the West.
   
Zimbabwe's political crisis has added to the woes of the country suffering from the world's highest inflation rate, last estimated at 231 million percent in July, and a devastating cholera outbreak that has claimed about 1,200 lives.

Date created : 2008-12-28

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