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Court postpones torture hearing

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The High Court has postponed hearing cases in which four Cabinet ministers and top service chiefs are being sued for damages arising from the alleged arrest and torture of a Norton man who was accused of terrorism and sabotage.
The hearing was deferred after lawyers representing the ministers and security chiefs asked Mapfumo Garutsa’s attorney to join his claim with that of other alleged abductees who are also suing the same people.
Regis Mujeyi also of Norton is suing the same officials.
Lawyers from Mutamangira and Associates made the request in a letter written to the appellants’ lawyer Charles Kwaramba of Mbidzo, Muchadehama and Makoni Legal Practitioners.
“We regret to advise that Mr Mutamangira, the legal practitioner who is engaged in this matter will be unavailable on that date. We also propose that the various matters be clustered in order to facilitate their expeditious settlement,” read part of the letter, signed by one T. Moyo of Mutamangira and Associates.
Kwaramba yesterday said Garutsa’s claim would be heard on September 13 while Mujeyi’s would be attended to on September 27.
Garutsa is claiming up to
$1,2 million in damages suffered as a result of the alleged torture and illegal detention.
The ministers cited are Kembo Mohadi (co-Home Affairs) Giles Mutsekwa (former co-Home Affairs) Patrick Chinamasa (Justice and Legal Affairs) and Didymus Mutasa (former State Security).
Garutsa and Mujeyi are also claiming damages from police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri, Paradzai Zimondi (Commissioner of Prisons), and Happyton Bonyongwe (Director General of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), Asher Walter Tapfumaneyi (Assistant Director of the CIO) and senior police officers identified as Senior Assistant Commissioner Nyathi, Chief Superintendent Makedenge, Detective Chief Inspector Mpofu, Chief Superintendent Peter Magwenzi, Superintendent Joel Shasha Tenderere and Superintendent Regis Takaitei.
Judge President Justice George Chiweshe will preside over the cases.
Garutsa claimed his head was dipped into a bowl filled with water, and was repeatedly assaulted with a belt and open hands to force him to admit to allegations of bombing Manyame River Bridge and Manyame Railway Bridge.
The ministers and service chiefs have since denied the allegations saying Garutsa and other suspects were “kept in safe houses and volunteered information”.
Garutsa said in court documents that on November 30 2008 he was abducted and detained under hostile circumstances in various holding cells for alleged acts of terror and sabotage.
He claimed he was abducted from his home and deprived of basic requirements while in custody.
He alleged he was subjected to those conditions from November 30 2008 to December 22 the same year.
While in detention, Garutsa said security agents demanded to know his political affiliation and asked him to produce MDC membership cards.
The defendants justified their actions on the grounds that the country’s security was under threat from an alleged planned insurgency and therefore it was imperative to adopt necessary measures.
They argued the arrest and detention of Garutsa was “swift and discreet” as there was a list of at least 40 other insurgents or terrorists at large.
“Further it was known to the intelligence community that at that time the MDC had trained and deployed at least two hundred insurgents in every province and that at least 1 500 insurgents were armed and waiting in Botswana,” the defendants said.
“The situation obtaining was very sensitive and had to be treated with the utmost caution and by a judicious exercise of tact.”
However, they denied ever assaulting Garutsa or subjecting him to any form of torture.
“They were all well kept in safe houses while investigations continued. These safe houses are not prisons but very decent and comfortable houses in low density areas in Harare,” the defendants said.
“None of the suspects were subjected to any pain. None of the suspects were held incommunicado. They were allowed interaction among themselves in some instances. They all had access to clean air, clean water, toilets, bathrooms and all necessary sanitation including sanitary wear for the women.”
The defendants claimed suspects who were HIV positive were attended to by doctors and were given medication and treated.
They claimed whatever information they got from the suspects was “volunteered freely and voluntarily through interviews which were held in comfortable environments”.
“The defendants will pray for the dismissal of the claim on the basis that the arrest was lawful, further on the
basis that allegations of torture, assault, inhuman and degrading treatment are denied and plaintiffs are put to the strict thereof.”

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