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Lawyers Want Charges Dropped Against Zimbabwe Activists


Lawyers for seven people charged with bombing state property are demanding charges be dropped against their clients. The seven are among 30 rights activists and opposition party members detained in recent weeks in what the opposition calls a crackdown on dissent.

Lawyer Alex Muchadahama went to court to claim the state has no case against his clients and charges against them should be dropped.

His seven clients, including the Movement for Democratic Change's security director Chris Dlamini and party leader Morgan Tsvangirai's former personal assistant Ghandi Mudzingwa, were accused Wednesday in Harare High Court of planting two small bombs at police stations, and one at a bridge following elections last year.

The seven were charged with terrorism, banditry and insurgency, and could face the death penalty if convicted.

Muchadahama told the court the charges were "ridiculous and scandalous." He told the court the state has no credible evidence against them to warrant them being held and said all seven were tortured when they were arrested.

These seven are the first of about 30 people who disappeared or were abducted late last year to be charged in a court of law. There are another 10 who have made statements to the police, but still have not appeared in court, and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said they believe at least another 13 people are in police stations somewhere around Harare.

Lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, who is defending human rights campaigner Jestina Mukoko, said she has been granted a hearing by Zimbabwe's constitutional court Monday to determine if her client's case can be heard as an urgent matter.

Mtetwa has argued that Mukoko's constitutional rights have been badly abused. She said Mukuko was not arrested with a warrant, but kidnapped from her home, and was mistreated in custody. She said her client has been denied access to her lawyers and refused permission to be examined by her own doctors.

Mukoko was accused by police of being part of a plot to recruit people for military training in Botswana to overthrow President Robert Mugabe.

The High Court ordered Mukoko and eight others be taken to a hospital on Christmas Eve, but the police defied that order. The High Court also demanded the rest of the group be released from police cells immediately, saying their detention was illegal.

Lawyers say they believe the police have video confessions made shortly after those being held were abducted and that those confessions were made under duress.

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