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Abducted Zimbabwe Activist Mukoko and Others Appear in Harare Court

Missing for three weeks after her abduction Dec. 3, Zimbabwe Peace Project Director Jestina Mukoko appeared in court on Wednesday in Harare to be arraigned on charges she plotted to bring down the government of President Robert Mugabe.

Arraigned with Mukoko were a member of her staff, and eight activists of the Movement for Democratic Change, also resurfacing weeks after their abduction.

The MDC activists were taken from their homes in Banket, Mashonaland West, in late October and like Mukoko were held by unknown parties at uncertain locations. Friends of Mukoko and other abductees feared for their lives as the weeks passed, as many of those kidnapped in the wave of political violence after March elections were murdered and dumped.

Observers speculated the release of these members of Zimbabwe's democratic opposition was a tacit response by the Mugabe government to an ultimatum issued Dec. 19 by Morgan Tsvangirai, founder of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, who said that if the abductees did not reappear by Jan. 1 his party would end the power-sharing process.

Despite the signature of a power-sharing agreement Sept. 15 by Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF and the MDC formations led by Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, the envisioned national unity government has not been formed due to disagreements over cabinet and other posts. Mr. Mugabe has urged the MDC to join a unity government he proposes to form and lead.

Political analyst Farai Maguwu of the Center for Research and Development in Mutare told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that Mr. Mugabe sought to use the abductees as political hostages to force the MDC to join his national unity government on his terms.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...