Court rules Zimbabwe doctor free to travel abroad after kidnapping

Peter Magombeyi to leave police custody after court dismisses police appeal
A man holds a sign during a protest of doctors and medical staff for the safe return of Dr Peter Magombeyi, the leader of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA,) on September 18, 2019, in Harare. – Hundreds of Zimbabwean doctors and nurses marched in Harare on September 16, 2019, to protest the suspected kidnapping of a doctors’ union leader by security forces for organising a slew of strikes. Peter Magombeyi has been missing since September 14, 2019, night, after sending a WhatsApp message saying he had been “kidnapped by three men”, according to the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA). (Photo by Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP)

A Zimbabwe court on Wednesday ordered police to allow a doctors’ union leader to travel to South Africa for treatment after he emerged last week from a suspected kidnapping that his supporters say was carried out by the state.

Peter Magombeyi went missing from his house in the capital Harare on September 14. He previously claimed he was receiving “death threats” for leading strikes demanding better pay for doctors.

His last WhatsApp message said: “I have been kidnapped by 3 men.”

Read Also: Police in Zimbabwe prevent striking doctor from travelling abroad for treatment

Hundreds of medics had taken to the streets to demand the authorities investigate Magombeyi’s disappearance. They accused security forces of kidnapping their colleague.

Magombeyi was found on Thursday night, 30 kilometres (18 miles) from Harare – alive and deeply traumatised.

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He was taken to hospital and a Harare court ruled on Tuesday that he should be allowed to travel to South Africa to seek medical attention.

But the police appealed the court’s decision and forcefully prevented Magombeyi from leaving his room. Their appeal was unsuccessful.

“The Respondents are hereby ordered to release Peter Gabriel Magombeyi forthwith and in any event, no later than one hour of them being served with this order,” the court ruling said.

Lawyer Alec Muchadehama said his team was “making arrangements” to forward the court order to the police.

“We expect them to release him from his unlawful custody wherever he is now detained,” said Muchadehama.    

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The government had assured earlier on Wednesday that Magombeyi was “not being held against his will”.

“Satisfied that his personal security is guaranteed, (the) government will ensure that Dr Magombeyi is free to travel to a place of his choice without hindrance,” an information ministry statement said.

Amnesty International had condemned the “cruel denial of travel” putting Magombeyi’s “health at risk”. “That anyone can be treated this way by the state is unbelievable and is made worse by the fact that he’s already faced a terrible ordeal and abduction,” the rights organisation said on Wednesday.

Rights groups say around 50 political opponents and unionists have been abducted in Zimbabwe this year. 

Doctors complain about lack of supplies and poor working conditions in Zimbabwe, where a once-vaunted public health system has suffered years of neglect. 

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The southern African country is still struggling with high inflation and fuel and food shortages after decades of economic crisis under former president Robert Mugabe, who died on September 6.

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