Jestina Mukoko Is Set Free
Jestina Mukoko soon after she was given bail while getting treatment for torture at the Avenues Clinic. She has now been freed totally by the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe, which found that her arrest and detention were illegal and violated her rights
Harare, Zimbabwe 29 September 2009
Jestina Mukoko has been freed by the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe.
Mukoko was freed yesterday and the case against her quashed in the grounds that her arrest and detention were unconstitutional.
The surprising verdict, granting what is known in legal parlance as "permanent stay of execution", means that Mukoko will not be brought to trial in the case where she and others were facing banditry charges.
Mukoko told the media that she "could not believe" that people could charge her with such a serious crime.
The Zimbabwe Peace Project Director was abducted from her home in Norton at Dawn in December last year and disappeared for weeks, with the police saying they did not know where she was.
She was eventually brought to court hurriedly, just before Christmas, where she said she had been tortured. She was subsequently taken into Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison, before being transferred to the Avenues Clinic for treatment. From there, she got bail, although the charges against her still stood.
This raises a very important question:
What does it say about the judgement of the Attorney General that he sought to press ahead with a prosecution founded on what the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe called an illegal basis?
When Attorney General Gula-Ndebele was in office (Mugabe fired him barely two years ago, the Attorney General used to point blank refuse to prosecute certain cases that were purely political. Some were political vendettas.
But this Attorney General, knowing that he is prosecuting a person whose rights have been fundamentally violated, did not feel any shame at all, even as he opposed her applications to be given her passport while in bail so that she could collect prizes that she has won around the world.
How then can Mugabe continue to defend a man who sanctions such unlawful behaviour and thinks it a fit enough basis for a prosecution?
There is an interesting twist.
Mukoko wants to seek the prosecution of those who abducted her. When she called for the names of these people to be released in court during her initial trial, Didymus Mutasa, Mugabe's Minister of State in charge of the Secret Police wrote to the court saying he would not do so because doing so would harm national security.
Now, with the Supreme Court having decided that her rights were infringed upon and that this is cause enough to grant her relief from the prosecution, legally, it means she can now seek redress from the courts.
Whether Mukoko will remain free will depend to a very large extent on how she approaches this question.
I would caution against too much celebration too soon. Mugabe and his gang have yet to respond.