BY CHARLES LAITON
THE High Court has dismissed an application for a permanent stay of prosecution filed by former Finance minister Ignatius Chombo, who is facing several cases involving corruption, fraud and criminal nuisance.
The court said his abduction by members of the Zimbabwe National Army, during Operation Restore Legacy in November 2017, was not meant to extract a confession for criminal offences against him.
Following his arrest and his subsequent appearance in court on criminal charges, Chombo petitioned the High Court last year, seeking an order to compel the National Prosecuting Authority and its boss Prosecutor-General Kumbirai Hodzi to permanently suspend his prosecution alleging violation of his constitutional rights as enshrined in the Bill of Rights.
In his earlier application, the former minister said on November 15, 2017 at midnight, his premises were raided, commando style, by AK47 assault rifle-wielding soldiers who then forced entry into his main house where they pointed a gun to his head, handcuffed, chained and blindfolded him before whisking him away.
Chombo said on November 23, 2017, he was released by his abductors, but after being dropped at home, he was immediately arrested by members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), who detained him and eventually took him to court.
“I have already found that the circumstances under which the applicant (Chombo) was raided, handcuffed, blindfolded and frog-marched to a vehicle which took him to an unknown place where he was held captive for almost nine days, have not been refuted in a meaningful way. I find that indeed that mistreatment occurred as a result of which there were infringements of the applicant’s constitutional rights as alleged. The question which arises, therefore, is whether the appropriate remedy should be an order for permanent stay of prosecution,” Justice Nicholas Mathonsi said in his judgment.
The violation of Chombo’s rights by the army appeared to have been undertaken for no discernible reason at all, the judge said, adding that excessive force and violence was used to capture him leaving a trail of destruction.
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“He was then held for sometime in movie-style while nothing meaningful was happening except to keep him in isolation for a lengthy period while extraneous questions were routinely put to him for nothing, but the amusement of his interrogators. He was not subjected to physical assault and neither was there an attempt to extract evidence or a confession from him in respect of the offences he is now facing. It is quite strange indeed,” Justice Mathonsi said.
“I have no choice in the matter, but to apply the principle that where the torture or ill-treatment of an accused person prior to charges being preferred against him or her has not resulted in a confession or the extraction of evidence sought to be used by the prosecution at the criminal trial, but the prosecution is relying on other evidence not obtained illegally, the accused person is not entitled to an order of permanent stay of prosecution even though he or she was ill-treated or tortured.”