HARARE – Zengeza West MP Job Sikhala was blindfolded and driven to Bikita in Masvingo province without his lawyers’ knowledge, a court heard on Thursday.
The MDC deputy chairman was charged with subverting a constitutional government when he appeared before Bikita magistrate Marewanazvo Gofa, who remanded him in custody to July 24.
His lawyers immediately applied for bail at the Masvingo High Court.
Sikhala’s lawyer Jeremiah Bamu of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights raised several complaints with the magistrate including alleged blindfolding, denial of medication as well as refusal of access to his lawyers and family members.
Bamu said the police actions were unlawful as they breached section 50 of the constitution (rights of arrested and detained), section 51 (right to dignity) and section 53 (freedom from torture).
“Blindfolding suspects is cruel, inhuman and tantamount to psychological torture,” the lawyer protested.
Prosecutors charged Sikhala over comments made at a rally in Bikita last Saturday.
He is alleged to have “uttered that their party was going to overthrow the constitutionally elected government of Zimbabwe by fight and war.”
Details have emerged of how Sikhala, who was arrested in Harare on Tuesday, was driven to Bikita after police made sure his lawyers did not know where he was being taken.
Tendai Biti, the MDC deputy president and senior partner at a law firm where Sikhala works as a lawyer, revealed on Twitter: “When they whisked away Sikhala from Law and Order Department of Harare Central Police Station, they locked us – all the lawyers present – behind a steel door to prevent us from trekking their movements. This is an absolute fascist regime presided over by predatory fascists.”
Explained Doug Coltart, a human rights lawyer who works closely with Sikhala’s defence team: “Sikhala was detained on Tuesday at around 9AM after he voluntarily presented himself to the police for questioning, accompanied by his lawyers. He was detained overnight and was due to appear in court the next morning.
“Though there had been talk of moving Sikhala to Bikita, an agreement was reached between the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and Sikhala’s lawyers that he would appear for initial remand at Harare Magistrate’s Court (Rotten Row) at 2:15PM.
“The NPA asked Sikhala’s lawyers to write a letter consenting to the jurisdiction of Harare Magistrate’s Court for initial remand, which they did, even though jurisdiction actually only applies to trial not remand. The letter was delivered at 12PM on Wednesday.
“Sikhala’s lawyers Obey Shava and Jeremiah Bamu were told to go and wait for him at Rotten Row where he was expected to appear at 2:15PM. Others from his legal team including Innocent Gonese remained with him at Harare Central Police Station.
“What happened next is truly shocking. As the lawyers who had remained with Sikhala were leaving Harare Central expecting to accompany him to Rotten Row, they were barred from leaving. Sikhala was whisked away and no-one knew where he had been taken.
“Sikhala says that he was blindfolded at this point. This was meant to disorient him and instil fear in him. Such treatment amounts to a violation of the right to freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment as enshrined in section 53 of the Constitution.
“His lawyers were not informed. Shava says the first knew he’d been taken to Bikita was when the Information Ministry tweeted about it. The ministry lied that this was a decision of the courts, when in fact he had not been brought before the courts.
“Bamu had to drive through the night on the dangerous Harare-Masvingo highway to make it to Bikita for court this morning because the State had lied to him and clandestinely taken Sikhala to Bikita without his or any of his lawyers’ knowledge.”
Source: Zim Live