Zimbabwean police ignored a court order to allow the release to hospital of a rights activist and several opposition figures accused of recruiting anti-government plotters, their lawyers said on Thursday.
“They are being held at Chikurubi maximum security prison despite the fact that 12 of them were supposed to be released from the custody of the police and security agents,” said one of their lawyers, Andrew Makoni.
Police were not immediately available for comment on the case, which arose amid intense pressure on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe over a deadly cholera epidemic and ruinous political crisis.
Jestina Mukoko, director of Zimbabwe Peace Project — a rights group which has been compiling cases of election violence — was seized from her home on Dec. 3 by armed men who identified themselves as police.
Two members of her staff were taken away from their office days later. They are being accused together with 28 members from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) opposition party of recruiting anti-government plotters.
A two-year-old child is also among those being held.
Mukoko’s location was unknown for several weeks and a High Court order for her release went unheeded, sparking protests from international rights bodies.
Judge Yunus Omarjee late on Wednesday night ordered that Mukoko and eight other activists be transferred to a Harare hospital until their next court date on Monday.
He offered no explanation but one of their lawyers claimed they may have been tortured.
Specific charges against Mukoko and the others were not listed in the magistrate’s court, but prosecutor Florence Ziyambi spoke of the alleged anti-government plot at a court appearance on Wednesday.
“Sometime in October the government of Zimbabwe launched complaints that Botswana was training insurgents ... for the purpose of removing the present government. That’s when security people picked up the accused persons,” she said.