The defense attorney for Zimbabwe’s former finance minister and a top youth leader alleges they were tortured under military detention, and held illegally.
A court granted both men bail last week.
The military detained Zimbabwe’s former finance minister, Ignatius Chombo, and a former youth leader of the ruling Zanu PF party, Kudzanai Chipanga during last month’s military intervention in this southern African country.
Chombo is charged with fraud, corruption and abuse of office during former President Robert Mugabe’s administration. Chipanga is accused of causing disaffection among the country’s defense forces. Their arrest was carried out during an army blitz that targeted what it calls “criminals” who allegedly surrounded the country’s now deposed leader.
High Court judge Edith Mushore ordered the duo to be released on bail. Chombo was ordered to post $5,000 in bail money, to report to the police three times a day, and to surrender title deeds of his house as well as travel documents. He also is barred from the central bank and government offices where the offenses were allegedly committed.
Chipanga was ordered to post $500 as bail and to report to the police twice daily.
Their defense attorney, Lovemore Madhuku, says his clients should not have been arraigned in the first place because their detention was unconstitutional.
“The High Court criticized the magistrates’ court and said they were wrong to have denied these persons bail because they were very fit candidates for bail but the High Court did not just end there, it went further to say that those persons that had arrested them before they were taken by the police, that is the military, they had acted in an unlawful manner because they had gone beyond the 48 hour rule.”
Madhuku claims the army tortured his clients while they were in detention.
“Very clearly so; they were actually tortured, torture is any form of pain that you inflict on a person with a view to want them to either do something in an unlawful manner so even blindfolding, keeping a person blindfolded for a minute, two minutes, three minutes when you are doing that against their will that’s torture, assaulting them when in custody that’s torture and as they were doing that they were trying to extract certain information from them.
Madhuku says his clients will seek compensation from the new government of Mugabe’s former deputy, President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
“What next lawfully is that we first expect that the government will come and tell us that, ‘look, we were sorry we did this and here we are offering compensation.’ They must apologize to our clients and then offer to pay them compensation for the period of unlawful detention. But if they do not do that we will take them up on that issue at the same time we will take it into account when this matter is going to be taken up …”
Chombo and Chipanga are among the highest-profile former officials detained by the military since it acted last month. Both are linked to the Generation 40 faction of the ruling ZANU-PF party, which was close to both President Mugabe and his wife, Grace Mugabe.
Since he resigned on November 21st, Mugabe has not been seen in public. Some of his allies reportedly have sought refuge in neighboring countries.