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Police Arrest, Charge Prominent Zimbabwe Human Rights Activist

Jestina Mukoko
Jestina Mukoko
Zimbabwe Peace Project director Jestina Mukoko handed herself to the police Friday after Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri went on television Thursday night to hunt down the prominent rights activist, saying authorities wanted to interview her on a number of issues, including her organization’s status and the importation of short wave radios which police say are banned.

Mukoko’s move followed an appeal by Commissioner General Chihuri for Zimbabweans to apprehend the rights activist or call the police with any information about her whereabouts.

Mukoko, who was at her home when the announcements were made, voluntarily reported to Harare Central Police Station Friday morning.

The former Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation news anchor’s lawyer, Harrison Nkomo, said his client signed warned and cautioned statements at Harare Central Police Station’s law and order section.

Nkomo said the human rights activist, who is facing four charges, was released into his custody to allow the police to continue with their investigations following which she will be summoned to appear in court.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International said the alert issued by Commissioner General Chihuri on state television implying that the prominent human rights defender was on the run from the law, is a new low in the recent crackdown on dissent.

Amnesty International’s Southern Africa director Noel Kutukwa said:

“It is appalling that at this critical time when Zimbabwe is in the process of adopting a new constitution which provides a stronger bill of human rights, human rights defenders are coming under systematic attack.”

Okay Machisa, chairperson of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition - a grouping of more than 100 non-governmental organizations said the police action is meant to further victimize Mukoko, who was abducted and held incommunicado for close to three months in 2009 while being tortured.

Machisa said non-governmental organizations are now under siege ahead of the March 16 constitutional referendum and elections expected to be held sometime this year.
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Rights defenders are criticizing the continuing confiscation of shortwave radios by the police saying Zimbabweans should be allowed to listen to radio stations of their choice.

Deputy Police Commissioner, Innocent Matibiri, told parliament recently that authorities had banned the shortwave receivers to ensure that Zimbabweans do not have access to stations like VOA Studio 7 and others that broadcasts from outside Zimbabwe which were beaming what he called hostile propaganda.

Meanwhile, the Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn political party is joining a number of Zimbabwe's smaller political groups and some civic society organizations in calling for a 'No' vote in next Saturday's referendum on the draft constitution.
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