23 FEBRUARY 1962, Page 4

The Case of' M.r. Mutti

IT is not likely that Mr. Duncan Sandys, on his visit to Rhodesia, had time to inquire into the case of Mr. Jethro Mufti, and it is quite certain that the case was not brought to his attention by his hosts.

During the disturbances in Northern Rhodesia last year, when the African campaign against the proposed new Constitution was at its height, there were excesses' on both sides. However, Mr. Mutti's case is a relatively straightforward one. Mr. Muni was. he alleged, beaten up by security forces in August, 1961, in company with a number of colleagues. Some of them sus- tained considerable injuries, including in one case, it is said, a fractured skull. No arrests were made of those responsible, and up until at least the middle of January of this year no independent inquiry had been made into the conduct of the police in question.

Subsequently, however, Mr. Mutti brought a private prosecution for assault against one police officer. It was not denied that the prosecution witnesses had been injured, and scarcely denied that the injuries had been caused by police action; but the particular officer against whom Mr. Mufti's charge was brought was acquitted, Mr. Multi was then charged with perjury. found guilty, and sentenced to eighteen months' im- prisonment. Since it was never denied that Mr. Multi and others had been assaulted, and the magistrate hearing the case against the police officer had gone so far as to say: 'The injuries to the prosecution witnesses may have been caused by police officers, but if they were, they may have been caused in circumstances quite different from those described by the prosecution,' Mr. Mutti appears to have incurred a penalty disproportionate to the offence of picking the wrong policeman. For, even accepting that he committed deliberate perjury against this officer (and it was a case of one man's word against another's), there seems little doubt that he and others were assaulted by some policeman or policemen unknown. Mr. Mutti is appealing; meanwhile some closer investigation is needed.