Zim Diaspora

Mar 26th
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Mugabe regime has no intention of releasing activists

Mugabe regime  has no intention of releasing activists
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's regime has "no intention" of releasing a top rights activist and opposition figures accused of recruiting anti-government plotters, a defence lawyer said Friday.

"Nothing has changed. The police have not moved an inch and our clients are still detained at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison including the two-year-old child," Alec Muchadehama told AFP.

"The state is in contempt of court. The reason they brought some of them to court is for public relations purposes to save their image but the truth is that they have no intention of releasing them," he said.

Paris-based media rights group Reporters Without Borders on Friday condemned the terrorist plot accusations against Jestina Mukoko and other opposition figures and activists, calling the state's moves "unacceptable".

"The accusations brought against Mukoko are absurd and baseless. We call on the Zimbabwean authorities to free her and withdraw all the charges at once...the prosecution of these opposition activists has all the hallmarks of a government conspiracy to sabotage the power-sharing agreement," the group said in a statement.

Mugabe and his rivals from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party signed a power-sharing deal in September, but negotiations to form a unity government have stalled.

High court judge Yunus Omerjee had late Wednesday ordered the immediate release of Mukoko and several opposition figures accused of plotting against Mugabe, who has faced increasing pressure over a deadly cholera epidemic and the political crisis.

"They are not explaining why they are holding the people. They are also denying us access to ...our clients who are in police custody. The police are acting as if they are the law unto themselves," Muchadehama said.

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 MDC of recruiting anti-government plotters.

A two-year-old child is also among those being held.

Mukoko's location was unknown for several weeks and a high court order for her release went unheeded, sparking protests from international rights bodies. She appeared in court on Wednesday along with eight detainees.

The nine are expected to appear in court on Monday for allegedly recruiting or goading people to undergo military training to oust the government.

The September power-sharing deal followed disputed elections earlier in the year that saw Mugabe's party lose its majority in parliament for the first time since independence in 1980.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai finished ahead of Mugabe in the first round of the presidential election, but boycotted the run-off vote over violence against his supporters.

Tsvangirai has warned his party could pull out of the negotiations on a unity government if its members continued to be abducted and those detained were not released.

"We have given a copy of the high court order (for the release of the detainees) to the police and they have not reacted," Muchadehama stressed.

The police were not available for comment on Friday, a public holiday in Zimbabwe.AFP


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