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Africa
Back to jail for Zimbabwe activists
Move to revoke bail for political activists on terrorism charges threatens unity government.
Last Modified: 05 May 2009 23:23 GMT

Prosecutors allege the activists plotted to
remove Robert Mugabe from power [EPA] 

A Zimbabwe court has revoked the bail of 18 political activists facing charges of "terrorism", ordering them to return to prison in a trial that has been widely denounced as a sham.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the party headed by Morgan Tsvangirai, the prime minister, warned the move could endanger the country's fledgling unity government.

"Today's ruling seriously threatens not only the life and health of the inclusive government, but its longevity and durability," the MDC said in a statement.

The activists were arrested last year and say they were abducted from their homes by state security agents and tortured into confessing to being party to a plan to remove Robert Mugabe, the president, from power.

The group, which includes Jestina Mukoko, a leading human rights activist, and several MDC members, were granted bail in March with the consent of state prosecutors.

The 18 have now been indicted for a trial which starts next month.

'Shadow over government'

Fifteen of the activists appeared in court on Tuesday for the remand hearing, the other three are still in hospital recovering from injuries they said they received at the hands of security forces.

The judge at the hearing said that the activists' bail had been revoked because prosecutors had filed a formal indictment.

Alec Muchadehama, one of the defence lawyers, said: "We were surprised by the magistrate's decision as we were making prior arrangements with the state. She [the judge] just said the matter was now outside her jurisdiction and remanded them in custody."

The move has raised fears for the future of Zimbabwe's nascent unity administration.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai formed a unity government in February after months of political wrangling, but sharp differences remain.

Mugabe has yet to swear in Roy Bennett, a senior white MDC member, as deputy agriculture minister.

Bennett was also jailed for a month in February on charges of plotting "terrorism".

In New York, rights group Amnesty International said the activists' detention "casts a shadow over the new government and calls into question its commitment to halt persecutions of political opponents".

Source:
Agencies
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