Human rights activist speaks out against Zimbabwe abuse

Human rights activist speaks out against Zimbabwe abuse

By Agencies
15 Jan 2009

Human rights activist Jestina Mukoko has denounced the abuse and violence she suffered at the hands of Zimbabwean secret service agents. Jestina Mukoko was held in solitary confinement for 19 days.

The aim, reports FIDES and Independent Catholic News (http://www.indcatholicnews.com/) was to coerce her into an admission of recruiting youths for military training in Botswana to dislodge President Robert Mugabe from power. She is still in police custody at an unknown location.

In an affidavit filed with the High Court, the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) director said those who kidnapped her on 3 December 2008 want to link her to Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

The government claims that the MDC is recruiting youths to undergo military training in Botswana. The accusations, which have been denied both by Tsvangirai and by the government in Botswana, have lead to tensions between the two countries.

The kidnapping of Ms Mukoko, along with that of other activists and members of the opposition party, has caused alarm in the country and in other foreign nations, especially since no word was given as to their whereabouts or physical state. Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa (Honduras) and President of Caritas Internationalis, launched an appeal for Jestina Mukoko's immediate release and that of the other human rights activists taken hostage in Zimbabwe.

Minister of State for National Security Didymus Mutasa has since admitted in the High Court that Mukoko was in the custody of the Central Intelligence Organization (CIO), the local secret service.

In her affidavit, Mukoko affirms that she was kidnapped by six men and a woman who did not identify themselves, who took her and forced her into a car. She was then taken to an unknown place and subject to interrogations. on the first day of the kidnapping she was interrogated by five men and a woman who wanted to know more about the ZPP, its board members, founding organizations of the project and where it was located.

"Soon thereafter the line of questioning changed and I was now being accused of recruiting youths to undergo some form of military training and links with people at Harvest House (MDC headquarters). I denied the allegations," said Mukoko. They then began to try to make her confess having committed things she did not do. The agents then beat her with a rubber tube on the bottoms of her feet.

Just before Christmas, Ms Mukoko was taken into police custody and formally accused of trying to recruit people for a military operation. Her process is currently underway.

In the meantime, President Mugabe seems to have the intention to appoint a government without the participation of the opposition, in spite of the accords signed on 15 September 2008, which called for the formation of a government of national unity in order to overcome the economic crisis.

The Catholic agency Caritas Internationalis has launched an appeal to provide humanitarian aid for nearly 5 million Zimbabweans - nearly half the population -­ who would otherwise not survive, it says.

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