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Rights Advocates Condemn Zimbabwe AG's Comments On Detained Activist

Zimbabwean human rights activists and lawyers expressed dismay Wednesday at comments by Attorney General Johannes Tomana published in the state-run Herald newspaper this week saying rights activist Jestina Mukoko, abducted in December by state agents and now held on charges she plotted rebellion, is a threat to national security and must stay in jail.

Prominent members of the democratic opposition said however that they were not surprised by Tomana's comments, noting he is a political appointee with clear loyalties to the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe.

Political analyst and rights advocate Pedzisayi Ruhanya called the comments unfortunate in an interview with reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe.

Elsewhere, authorities have released a two-year-old child who was jailed with his parents for 76 days. The Tsvangirai formation of the opposition Movement for Democratic Chagne said Nigel Mutemagawo spent more than two months in custody despite a ruling from the high court that he and his parents should be released.

The MDC said the child was physically assaulted and denied food and medical attention while in jail. His parents, Collen Mutemagawo and Violet Mupfuranhehwe, were still held on what the MDC called trumped-up charges of training and recruiting bandits or insurgents.

MDC Information Officer Luke Tamborinyoka told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that the party has made arrangements for the welfare of the child while his parents are in custody.

Meanwhile, a Tsvangirai MDC activist who was abducted by state security agents around the same time as Mukoko but later escaped said he was tortured and sexually abused by alleged Central Intelligence Organization agents trying to force him to confess to coup-plotting.

Bothwell Pasipamire, a member of the city council of Kadoma, Mashonaland West, said he was held at a torture base along with Mukoko near Goromonzi, Mashonaland East province.

He said 23 soldiers were also being held there and tortured - apparently some of those who rioted in Harare just before Christmas over their inability to withdraw cash from banks.

Pasipamire, who later escaped to South Africa, told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that his experiences in extra-legal detention were horrific.

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