Zimbabwe rights activist jailed despite court order for release

[JURIST] Leading Zimbabwe human rights activist Jestina Mukoko [advocacy website] has been taken to the high-security Chikurubi prison [AP report] outside of Harare in violation of a court order that she be taken to a hospital, according to human rights lawyers Friday. Mukoko, who is charged with attempting to overthrow President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], went missing for three weeks earlier this month and was feared dead [Zimbabwe Metro report]. She nonetheless appeared in court [BBC News report] on Wednesday to face the charges against her while claiming she had been tortured during her three-week detention. The judge ruled her detention was illegal and that she be taken to a private hospital and given police protection, but she never appeared at the hospital. Eight other rights activists whose release had also been ordered were taken to the prison. They could have faced the death penalty if they had been tried and been found guilty for the crimes alleged.

Mukoko, head of the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), has played a key role in monitoring and publicizing the wave of violence that has hit the country before and after recent presidential elections and the run-off elections [JURIST reports] that followed. Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], presidential candidate of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party website], have been disputing results of March elections for months. They signed a power-sharing agreement [Harare Tribune text] in September, under which Mugabe would remain president, Tsvangirai would become prime minister, and each would have two deputies. The agreement, however, has been stymied over disagreements regarding division of top Cabinet posts, and violence and allegations of human rights violations continue to mar the election results, with the MDC estimating that nearly 100 of its members have been killed since March, and more than 100 imprisoned [AFP report].

 

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