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Mukoko Sceptical of Getting Fair Trial

HUMAN rights activist Jestina Mukoko, accused of recruiting bandits to topple President Robert Mugabe’s government, yesterday told a Harare magistrate’s court she was unlikely to have a fair prosecution after Attorney-General (AG) Johannes Tomana said he was a Zanu PF member.

Mukoko expressed her fears when she appeared before magistrate Archie Wochiunga to apply for the referral of her case to the Supreme Court where she intended to challenge her “unlawful detention” for 19 days since December 3, and failure by the state to bring to book her kidnappers.

In an interview with the state-controlled Herald published on Wednesday, Tomana said: “I am a Zanu PF and I am proud to be of that party. Nothing bars me from being a Zanu PF supporter.”  

Mukoko’s defence team, led by lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, echoed the same sentiments raised by her client saying that Tomana could not be trusted to protect her client as required by law.

Mtetwa said: “Tomana is not an AG who can protect Mukoko as envisaged under Section 18 of the Constitution because if he had been an impartial (and) fair-minded officer of the law, he would have joined hands with the applicant’s defence lawyers and refused to prosecute anyone who has been kidnapped, tortured and denied access to medical attention.”

In her submissions for the case’s referral to the Supreme Court, Mtetwa told the court that her client was unlawfully denied her liberty at the time she was abducted from her Norton home.

She said her client’s basic right as envisaged in Section 13 (4) of the Constitution which provides that a person arrested /detained shall be brought without enduring delay before a court had been violated.

“Applicant case is that upon her kidnap she was kept in forced captivity, subjected to torture while she was denied access to family members and legal representation for three weeks,” Mtetwa told the court. “It is my submission before this court that the detention of the applicant is a violation of Section 13 of the constitution which provides that any person who is arrested and detained shall be informed as soon as reasonably practical in language he/she understands the reasons of her detention and that person shall be permitted to obtain legal representation.”

Mtetwa alleged that the police, contrary to their statements in the media distancing themselves from the abduction of Mukoko, were part and parcel of her kidnap, detention and torture.

“Chief Superintendent Magwenzi and Superintendent Nzombe knew we were looking for Jestina but not a single police detail informed the family of Mukoko when she was handed to them,” she argued.

Mtetwa said police officers from Norton Police Station where Mukoko’s kidnap was reported have failed to cooperate with her office.  

Mukoko agreed with her lawyer that the police were working hand in hand with her abductors as evidenced by Nzombe’s refusal to tell her where she was at the time she was handed to him.

Mukoko told the court that: “On 22 December in the evening Chief Superintendent Magwenzi introduced himself and I asked him what police station we were at and he did not respond to that question.”

She said she was later taken to CID (Serious Fraud) where she was presented with a search warrant and made to sign a warned and caution statement in the absence of her lawyers.

“I was convinced that it was a continuation of my detention,” she said.

Mukoko in between tears told the court that she did not wish for anyone to be treated the way she was subjected to by her abductors.

“I think if people commit crimes, which I did not do, they should not be treated the way I was treated,” said Mukoko.

The state in its defence against referral of the case to the highest court in the country said the police brought Mukoko to court within the prescribed time.

“The accused was arrested on December 22 and was brought to court two days later despite whatever she is alleging transpired during the time she was not in police custody,” said prosecutor Florence Ziyambi.
Wochiunga will today determine whether the case is fit for referral to the Supreme Court.

State secret agents allegedly assaulted, tortured and detained Mukoko in solitary confinement for 19 days to coerce her to admit recruiting youths for military training in Botswana.

BY LUCIA MAKAMURE

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