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Zimbabwe: Detention of rights activist casts 'dark shadow' over new government

Amnesty International called for the immediate and unconditional release or prompt and fair trial of 18 human rights and political activists detained yesterday, just two months after they were released from prison after having been tortured.

The group of 18 detainees includes Jestina Mukoko, Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, a leading human rights organisation in Zimbabwe. All are accused of plotting to topple the previous government.

Amnesty International said that all detainees were victims of enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment at the hands of state agents between October and December 2008.

Amnesty International’s Africa Programme Deputy Director Veronique Aubert said:

“The trial of these human rights activists has all the hallmarks of a political trial. The charges appear to be similar to the charges used during the 2002 treason trial of Morgan Tsvangirai, now Prime Minister.”

Jestina Mukoko and the other human rights activists were detained following their indictment to appear before the High Court on charges of terrorism and bombings, widely believed to be fabricated by the state. On 4 May, the Attorney General’s office had made submissions in court to have the bail of the 18 detainees revoked. In Zimbabwean law, when a person is indicted to appear before the High Court, the accused has to re-apply for bail.

Amnesty International considers the detained activists to be potential prisoners of conscience.

Veronique Aubert continued:

“The detention of these activists casts a dark shadow over the inclusive government and calls into question its commitment to ending a culture of human rights violations used by the previous government against perceived opponents.”

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