Zimbabwe cops summon top activist

2013-03-07 22:23

Harare - Zimbabwe police on Thursday summoned a prominent rights activist for questioning, weeks after a police raid on her organisation ahead of key polls, a lawyer said.

But Jestina Mukoko - a former treason suspect famously detained in 2008 - refused to go, while her lawyer decried unfair targeting by President Robert Mugabe's security forces.

"Police called me ... saying they want Mukoko to report at Harare central police station to answer questions about the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP)," her lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa told AFP.

"I told the police that my client does not speak on behalf of ZPP. There is a board chairperson who is authorised to do that. Mukoko is only an employee."

Police were not immediately reachable for comment.

Alleged government harassment has spiked ahead of a referendum on 16 March and general elections later this year to end a unity government between Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Police last month vowed to crack down on non-governmental organisations saying some pose a "serious security threat".

In February authorities raided the offices of ZPP, a human rights NGO, purportedly looking for "subversive materials and illegal immigrants".

They seized several documents and other materials.


Besides the ZPP raid, detectives forcibly entered the offices of local poll observer group the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) and also confiscated documents.

In December they ransacked the offices of rights group Zimrights.

Less than a month after the ZPP raid they insisted on questioning Mukoko, claiming the organisation was operating without registration, according to Mtetwa.

"With the history of Jestina, I wonder why they want to target her as an individual," she said.

Mukoko was charged in 2009 with plotting to overthrow long-ruling Mugabe, but the charges were later dismissed.

She was seized from her home in December 2008 and held at an undisclosed place before being taken to the notorious Chikurubi prison, a maximum-security centre outside Harare.

The prosecution accused her of recruiting people for terror training in neighbouring Botswana, a claim rejected by Botswana and Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Her lawyers claimed state agents severely tortured her to force her to confess to banditry and treason.