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Zimbabwe Opposition Supporters Remain Imprisoned Despite Supreme Court Order - 2002-06-27


Two supporters of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, who were arrested last November, are still in prison despite a Supreme Court order for their release one week ago. The two young men are charged with kidnapping and murdering a veteran of Zimbabwe's independence war.

When the body of war veteran Cain Nkala was shown on state television last year, the two suspects, Khatani Sibanda and Sazani Mpofu, told viewers they played a part in his death. A few days later, the two men told their lawyer, in papers now filed with the high court, that they had been tortured into making the confession.

Their lawyers have worked since November to secure the release of the two on bail. There have already been four court orders for their release, the latest by Zimbabwe's chief justice, Godfrey Chidyausuku.

But the prisons department ignored the court orders, and has now been charged with contempt of court for failing to release the two men. The two suspects were brought to court again Thursday. A state-controlled newspaper reported new arrest warrants have been issued against them in anticipation of their release on bail.

Legal sources say the new warrants are contrary to normal legal practice in Zimbabwe. They say that normally, a suspect released on bail remains free throughout the trial. Lawyers acting for the two men say that, if they are arrested again, they will have to begin the process all over again to petition courts for bail.

The lawyers also say the government's case against Mr. Sibanda, Mr. Mpofu, and at least 10 other MDC members in the murder of Cain Nkala apparently rests entirely on the confessions that the two men now say were made under duress.

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