Jestina Mukoko Acquitted

Mukoko, a former staffer at the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation and now director of human rights organisation Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), and some members of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC party were being charged with attempting to recruit people for military training in neighbouring Botswana to overthrow Mugabe.

Mukoko was abducted from her Norton home by state security agents in December 2008 and held incommunicado at various secret locations where her lawyers say she was tortured.

Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku flanked by Justice Malaba and Justice Paddington Garwe handed down the judgement on Monday after more than three months of the application of permanent stay of prosecution was made. In the judgment Chidyausiku noted that the court had unanimously found that the state through its agents had violated Mukoko’s rights to an extent that the applicant sought a permanent stay of proceedings against her in court.

“It is ordered that criminal proceedings against the applicant at the magistrates’ courts and her prosecution … are hereby stayed permanently,” said Chidyausiku to a packed court room.

He said the reasons for the order will be handed out in a written judgement to be furnished to the lawyers.
An ecstatic Mukoko could not hold her tears as she walked out of the courtroom. She received hugs of congratulation from relatives and colleagues in the civil society community.

“I am just overwhelmed. I am so excited and I think I didn’t deserve to be treated like that. I just want to thank my colleagues in civil society not only in Zimbabwe but also from the region. They really stood by me,” said Mukoko almost in tears.

She said she has not been free for a long time and she would like to spend this new found freedom with her family.
Mukoko however said the persecution did not deter her from doing human rights work.

“I have a passion for human rights and I would want to do what I feel is good for me and the country. I just don’t understand why anyone would charge me with terrorism,” said Mukoko. “I hope to continue with my human rights work as I have done in the past.”

A full bench of the Supreme Court heard in June a constitutional challenge filed by Mukoko to determine a series of violations of herconstitutional rights at the hands of state security agents.

State lawyer Fatima Maxwell admitted upon cross examination that Mukoko’s rights were violated upon when she was arrested by state security agents from 3 to 22 December last year.  

She conceded that Mukoko might have been subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment, unlawfully detained, unlawfully threatened that she will suffer and deprived of medical treatment. Maxwell was also forced to admit by one of the judges Luke Malaba that the state security agents had no rights to detain suspects for extended periods other than those defined in the Police Act. Under the Police Act suspects have to be brought to court within 48 hours of the arrest.

Mukoko, who was represented by advocate Jeremy Gauntlet, wanted a permanent stay of prosecution and the charges to be dropped. Her trial for plotting to unseat President Robert Mugabe’s previous administration was scheduled for July but could not take off after the constitutional challenge.