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Zimbabwe Prisoner Goes to Court After Nine-Year Delay


A Zimbabwean suspected of rape and murder finally had his day in court this week, nine years after being placed in prison, awaiting a trial or sentencing. But his trial was once again delayed.

Marko Simakani appeared before Judge Anne-Mary Gowora in the High Court in Harare to face charges of rape and murder allegedly committed in 1997.

But Simakani's trial was delayed again until early December, because the presiding judge wanted him to undergo a psychiatric examination.

Simakani's defense lawyer, Harrison Nkomo, said that Simakani does not remember committing the crime saying, if he did, it was while his mind was "disturbed."

Chipo Muronda, the prosecutor in the case, alleged that Simakani stopped Nyarai Bangura, 16, on July 23, 1997, on her way to school and dragged her into a thick bush where he raped her once. Afterwards, he allegedly crushed Bangura's head with a huge boulder. She died at the scene.

Simakanis case came to light earlier this month during Judge President Rita Makarau's visit to Harare Central Prison where at least 10 prisoners told her of their long wait for justice.

Rights groups have condemned the overcrowded and unhygienic conditions in Zimbabwe's jails, but prison officers say they can do little about the situation, as funding for prisons has dried up. They also say the long-running fuel shortages in Zimbabwe make it impossible to take some of the prisoners to court for hearings. This results in some prisoners being remanded in absentia.

Law Society of Zimbabwe President Joseph James said the problem has long plagued Zimbabwe. He told VOA that every year members of his association visit jails and submit reports on overcrowding, nutrition and medical care.

But he says the ministry of justice has never responded to any of their reports. He said his association's reports highlight the violation of prisoners human rights and the poor or non-administration of justice by the authorities.