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AG admits Mukoko abducted

THE Attorney-General (AG)’s office yesterday admitted that former television newscaster and human rights activist Jestina Mukoko was abducted and illegally detained by state security agents.

Fatima Maxwell, a senior official in the AG’s office, made the admission after the Supreme Court bench made up of Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, and Justices Wilson Sandura, Luke Malaba, Vernanda Ziyambi, and Paddington Garwe sought the state’s legal opinion on whether Mukoko’s detention from December 3 to 22 last year was consistent with the law.

Mukoko is seeking permanent stay of prosecution on charges of recruiting or trying to recruit people to overthrow the government. More than a dozen other MDC-T activists face similar charges.

Defence lawyers Beatrice Mtetwa and Advocate Jeremy Gauntlet from South Africa argued that Mukoko’s rights to liberty, protection of law and from torture had been trampled under foot when she was abducted by state security agents from her home and kept incommunicado for 19 days.

“The process (of her arrest) is so contaminated that you should order a stay of prosecution,” Gauntlet told the court, adding that prosecutors were solely relying on evidence extracted from Mukoko during torture to prosecute her.

The court reserved judgement on the matter indefinitely. If it rules in Mukoko’s favour, it would affect the other activists who have made the same applications at the Supreme Court.

Maxwell, in response to a question from Chidyausiku, said the state did not dispute Mukoko’s evidence and had not questioned the security agents who had allegedly abducted her.

Asked if she was conceding that Mukoko’s abduction and detention were illegal, Maxwell told the court: “Yes my Lord.”

On whether Mukoko had been tortured, Maxwell added: “The allegations as they stand and if proved are a clear violation of the three rights in the constitution.”

These are the right to liberty, protection at law and protection from torture.

But Maxwell said the violations should not prevent Mukoko from being prosecuted, rather there should be a separate inquiry to investigate the allegations.

”We respectfully submit that yes the violations are serious, multiple and were protracted … the only meaningful redress in this case is a stay of prosecution,” Gauntlet argued.

Meanwhile, High Court Judge, Justice Tendai Uchena, on Monday cleared the way to allow four MDC members — Concillia Chinanzvavana, Fidelis Chiramba, Violet Mupfuranhewe and Collen Mutemagawu — to challenge their abduction and torture at the hands of state security agents before their trial commences.

In his ruling, Justice Uchena granted an application for referral to the Supreme Court of the matter involving the four who are seeking a determination on several of their constitutional rights, which were allegedly violated as a result of their abduction, torture and detention. — Staff Writer/Reuters.

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