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Zimbabwe Rights Groups Praises Exoneration of Activist Jestina Mukoko


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Human-rights defenders in Zimbabwe are praising a Supreme Court decision ordering all charges to be dropped against activist Jestina Mukoko who was detained 10 months ago on charges of conspiring to overthrow the government.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights Director Irene Petras welcomed the Supreme Court ruling (Monday) that ended the state prosecution of human-rights activist Jestina Mukoko.

"We believe it is a landmark judgment in that the judiciary has put prosecutorial authorities and all perpetrators and potential perpetrators of rights violations on notice that the violation of individuals' rights will not be tolerated by the courts and nobody is above the law including state institutions and actors," Petras said.

Mukoko was taken by armed men from her home before dawn last December. She was held in secret locations for nearly three weeks. She later testified that she was tortured in an attempt to make her confess to recruiting people for military training to overthrow the Zimbabwean government, which she denies.

The Zimbabwean Supreme Court ordered her case to be dropped, saying the methods used by agents of the state had violated her constitutional rights.

Mukoko heads the Zimbabwe Peace Project that monitored and documented the arrest, kidnapping, and torture of hundreds of activists and politicians during controversial elections last year.

Former opposition-leader Morgan Tsvangirai won the most votes in the first round of the elections. But President Robert Mugabe won the run-off after Mr. Tsvangirai withdrew, citing a campaign of violence in which more than 100 of his supporters were killed.

After lengthy negotiations, the two leaders formed a power-sharing government in February in which Mr. Tsvangirai took the post of prime minister.

Mukoko was released on bail three months later.

Mr. Tsvangiari's Movement for Democratic Change called the Supreme Court's decision a vindication of its position that the charges against Mukoko were trumped up.

There has been no public reaction from Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party. The government-owned media reported the development without comment.

Human-rights lawyer Petras said the southern African and international communities played a critical role in obtaining Mukoko's release, but noted that other activists are still disappeared or still are being prosecuted.

"We need to keep the spotlight on the cases that are still pending, on the individuals who are still being subjected to these processes," Petras said. "And it will be important for the region and for the international community to also question what has happened to the other seven people who were abducted and who are still missing."

Mukoko appeared at the news conference with Petras, but declined to speak, saying she was still traumatized by her ordeal.

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