Zimbabwe police charge top rights activist
HARARE (AFP) – Zimbabwe police charged a top rights activist with a litany of alleged offences on Friday, hours after she handed herself in to the authorities, her lawyer said.
“Police have charged her for allegedly operating an unregistered organisation,” Harrison Nkomo, Jestina Mukoko’s lawyer told AFP.
Other charges included the smuggling of radio sets and mobile phones and broadcasting without a licence, Nkomo added.
“They have released her into our custody and said they will call us when they are ready to go to court.”
The allegations come ahead of a March 16 referendum on a new constitution and crunch elections that will decide who will lead the country.
Mukoko handed herself to police Friday morning accompanied by her lawyers and spent three hours with the police as the charges were read.
Nkomo described the meeting as “cordial”.
Police charges against Mukoko come weeks after a raid at the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) where she is the director.
In 2008, Mukoko was seized from her home and detained at an undisclosed location before being taken to the notorious Chikurubi prison, a maximum-security centre outside Harare.
Her lawyers claimed state agents severely tortured her and forced her to confess to banditry and treason.
She was charged in 2009 with plotting to overthrow long-ruling President Robert Mugabe, but the charges were later dismissed.
The prosecution accused her of recruiting people for terror training in neighbouring Botswana, a claim rejected by Botswana and Prime Minister Mogan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
State media on Friday quoted police commissioner general, Augustine Chihuri appealing to people knowing Mukoko’s whereabouts to report to any police station.
Alleged government harassment has spiked ahead of a referendum on March 16 and general elections later this year.
Police last month vowed to crack down on non-governmental organisations saying some pose a “serious security threat.”
In February, authorities raided the offices of ZPP, a human rights NGO, purportedly looking for “subversive materials and illegal immigrants”.
They seized several documents and other materials.
Detectives have forcibly entered the offices of local poll observer group the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) and also confiscated documents.
In December they ransacked the offices of rights group Zimrights.