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Woman journalist freed after 3 months after being charged with plot to overthrow Mugabe

Woman journalist freed after three months, was charged with plot to overthrow Mugabe
Jestina Mukoko (centre), head of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, and supporters of opposition Movement For Democratic Change walk to the Magistrates Court in Harare in this December 24, 2008 file photo.Photo: Reuters / Philimon Bulawayo

Former journalist Jestina Mukoko, who was abducted by Zimbabwean security agents three months ago, has been released from prison. Mukoko was recently taken to a clinic in Harare, where she was treated for high blood pressure and injuries that doctors said were consistent with torture.

“Mukoko was unjustly held for three months in very disturbing conditions,” Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) said. “We are extremely relieved to know that she is free at last, but her ordeal will not be fully over until the authorities drop the charges against her. Her release, just a few weeks after the formation of a national unity government with the opposition, will hopefully be the starting point of a new government attitude of respect for free expression.”

Mukoko was freed on payment of USD 600 (476 euros) in bail and her passport was returned to her. “It is good to be free but being detained was an ordeal and I must look after my health,” she said, adding that she would talk to the media later, according to RSF.

Her lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, said: “It is good she has been released, but she is still restricted. She has to report to the police and the charges against her are still in place although she knows she did nothing.”

A former presenter for the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation and then the privately-owned Voice of The People, Mukoko now heads the Zimbabwe Peace Project, a human rights organisation. She was abducted from her home in Norton (40 km west of Harare) on December 3 by 15 men in plain clothes. Initially held incommunicado, she was brought before a judge for the first time on December 24.

Placed in solitary confinement in Chikurubi high-security prison, Mukoko was mistreated and tortured and denied the medicine she takes. Security agents allegedly punched her and hit her repeatedly with sharp instruments, including on the soles of her feet, and made her kneel naked on gravel.

Charged with hatching a “terrorist plot” against President Robert Mugabe, Mukoko was alleged to have recruited volunteers to receive military training in Botswana with a view to overthrowing the government.

Date posted: March 4, 2009 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 435