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Zimbabwean Activist Acquitted

Zimbabwe’s Supreme Court dropped all charges against human rights activist Jestina Mukoko and 8 others yesterday, ruling that their rights had been violated while imprisoned. Mukoko, the National Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, an NGO that tracks human rights violations and violence under President Robert Mugabe, had been accused of terrorism and conspiring to overthrow the Zimbabwean government.

Some in Zimbabwe think the Supreme Court’s decision to acquit Mukoko could be indicative of a shift toward the revitalization of an independent judiciary system. Mukoko, however, told the New York Times, “I am so relieved, I can barely express it.”

Mukoko was kidnapped from her home last December. According to her statement in court (see PDF), “I requested that I be allowed to collect personal belongings namely, my eye glasses, dress up since I was not wearing anything other than a night dress, I had no undergarments and other personal and medical requirements. This request was turned down.” She also told prosecutors her captors made her kneel on gravel and beat the soles of her feat with rubber truncheons.

Mukako’s disappearance was protested by activists both within Zimbabwe and around the world. An anonymous colleague told the Times Online right after the incident that Mukako’s work was greatly valued and that “thanks to the Peace Project, there is now a detailed record of thousands of incidents of murder, assault, torture, arson and so on, and who the perpetrators are.”

Sources:

New York Times 9/28/09; Times Online 12/4/08; Affidavit of Jestina Mungarehwa Mukoko 12/08

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