Zimbabwe activist 'torture' to be investigated

A Zimbabwean human rights activist missing for three weeks was taken to court accused, according to state media, of plotting to overthrow President Robert Mugabe.

Last night, a judge ordered that Jestina Mukoko and six other activists be sent to a hospital under police guard so that allegations of torture could be investigated, a human rights lawyer said.

The lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, said the seven would be taken to court again on Monday to determine the next step.

Meanwhile, another judge ordered a different group of about two dozen detainees released unconditionally.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu joined the growing international pressure on leader Mugabe to give up power. Asked during a BBC interview if Mugabe should be removed by force, Tutu said there should "certainly be the threat of it".

Mr Tutu, the retired Archbishop of Cape Town, also said he was ashamed of South Africa's handling of the Zimbabwe issue at the United Nations Security Council, where China and Russia in July vetoed a US-sponsored resolution that proposed worldwide sanctions against Mugabe and 13 officials.

Former South African president Thabo Mbeki mediated the power-sharing deal between Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, and South Africa reiterated this week it saw the deal as the only way forward, despite new US and British opposition to it.

"We have betrayed our legacy, how much more suffering is going to make us say, 'No, we have given Mr Mugabe enough time'," Mr Tutu told the BBC.

Ms Mukoko's court appearance came days after Mr Tsvangirai threatened to withdraw from talks on implementing the power sharing deal unless at least 42 missing activists and opposition officials were released or charged.

Ms Mukoko had been taken from her home on 3 December, the day activists held nationwide protests against the country's deepening economic and health crises, and scores of others had disappeared in recent weeks.

Charging Ms Mukoko, the respected head of a group known as the Zimbabwe Peace Project, with involvement with a plot already widely dismissed as a fabrication is a sign Mugabe is not prepared to back down.

The Herald, the state-run daily newspaper, said Ms Mukoko and the other activists with Mr Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change would be charged with attempting to recruit fighters to overthrow Mugabe. The Herald quoted police as saying the MDC was training fighters in Botswana.

Zimbabwean officials have repeatedly made such accusations, which have been denied by Botswana and the MDC.

Last week, South African president Kgalema Motlanthe dismissed the allegations, saying the main regional bloc launched an investigation when Mugabe's regime first raised them last month, but "we never believed" them.

Annah Moyo, a Johannesburg-based Zimbabwean human rights lawyer, said the charges against Ms Mukoko were "trumped up" and could be used by the Mugabe regime as an excuse to declare a state of emergency and withdraw from power sharing talks.

Mugabe's government was "desperate to do whatever it can to try to hold on to power", Ms Moyo said.

The power-sharing deal, signed in September, calls for Mugabe to remain president and Tsvangirai to take the new post of prime minister. The agreement has stalled over a dispute about who would control key Cabinet posts - and over charges that Mugabe has stepped up harassment of dissidents.

Shortly before Ms Mukoko was brought to court today, human rights lawyers said they had been visiting police stations and checking arrest records, and had managed to locate 14 activists who had disappeared in recent weeks.

The lawyers said the number of detainees may be higher than the 42 confirmed cases.

Mugabe, 84, has ruled the country since its 1980 independence from Britain and refused to leave office following disputed elections in March.

Food, medicine, fuel and cash are scarce in Zimbabwe, and critics blame Mugabe's policies for the ruin of what had been the region's breadbasket.

Mugabe has faced renewed criticism because his country's economic collapse has led to a humanitarian crisis. Millions of Zimbabweans are in need of food aid and a cholera epidemic has killed more than 1,100 people.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Sheeran arrives at the 56th annual Grammy Awards earlier this year
musicYes, that would be Ed Sheeran, according to the BBC
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

4 Week - Solidworks Draughtsman - Gloucstershire

£20 - £25 per hour + competitive: Huxley Associates: Huxley Engineering is cur...

SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: PSHE Teacher required in Devon - Star...

SEN PPA Cover Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Teacher Jobs in Devon Devon

BSL Level 2 or above - Behaviour Support Assistant

£50 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: We are looking for Teaching ...

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor