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Zimbabwean authorities have accused freelance photographer Anderson Shadreck Manyere and former journalist Jestina Mukoko of a terrorist plot to overthrow President Robert Mugabe, report the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) and other IFEX members. They were abducted in December and are now being held in high-security prisons - and face possible death sentences.

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Zimbabwean police brought Mukoko, Manyere and at least seven other human rights activists before a court on 24 December on charges of treason. Manyere went missing on 13 December in Norton, just west of Harare until his appearance in court. Mukoko was abducted on 3 December from her home in Norton by a group of men in plain clothes.

A court order mandated that Manyere, Mukoko and the other activists get access to medical treatment, arguing that following their enforced disappearances they had been tortured and were not ready to enter proceedings. It was also argued that the government did not have reasonable suspicion to link the accused to the alleged crimes. But the court order has been defied by police.

Manyere, along with at least six other opposition party activists, is being charged with banditry, sabotage and terrorism, for which he faces a prison sentence ranging from 20 years to life. The state accused him of participating in bombings last November of the Criminal Investigation Department headquarters in Harare and a botched bombing of a highway bridge and railroad line west of Harare. He was remanded in custody and is expected to return to court on 23 January.

"Sending Manyere and the others back to the police accused of torturing them is outrageous," said the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). "It is even more galling to suppose that those accused of torture will adequately investigate themselves. Manyere needs medical treatment and must be released immediately."

Mukoko, a former broadcaster for the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) and the privately-owned Voice of The People, now heads the Zimbabwe Peace Project, a human rights organisation that has been monitoring recent political violence in Zimbabwe. She remains in pre-trial custody.

The International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) has organised a petition concerning Mukoko's abduction and is calling for her release. Add your signature to the petition here:

MISA and RSF have also spoken out against the government's decision to raise the fees for foreign media accreditation, which has made visiting Zimbabwe extremely expensive for foreign freelance journalists, especially African freelancers. Foreign media organisations will now have to pay more than US$10,000 to be allowed to work in the country.

Visit these links:
- CPJ:
- Human Rights Watch:
- RSF:
(14 January 2009)

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