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For All Nails #51A: Victoria's Secret (Part 1)

by Jonathan Edelstein


Magistrate's Court

Nairobi, Victoria

14 February 1973


Her name was Victoria. That was also the name of her country.

The courtroom in which she stood was familiar to her. She was an attorney, and she had appeared in this court, before this judge, on many prior occasions. This was, however, only her third appearance as defendant.

She rose by instinct as the magistrate entered the room and the bailiff announced his name. "The Magistrate's Court in and for the district of Nairobi North is now in session, the Honorable Ian Douglas presiding..."

Magistrate Douglas - a man in his sixties, graduate of Victoria's best public schools and veteran of twenty-five years on the bench - took his seat and waved Victoria into her own. "Good morning, Mrs. Madoka," he said. "I've seen you looking better."

"A night in gaol doesn't help one's appearance, your Honor," she replied. "I trust any failures in that regard will be pardoned."

"I suppose I can make an exception this once," he said, smiling to acknowledge the awkward situation. "Case for arraignment, number 73-715, the State of Victoria against Victoria Madoka. The bailiff will read the indictment."

"Victoria Mary Madoka," said that worthy, "you are accused of violating the Sedition Act 1912, in that on or about the tenth day of February 1973, you stated in a public place that the cause of the Victoria National Congress was just and that its candidates should be supported in the upcoming parliamentary elections, said Congress being a party banned by regulation of the Attorney General pursuant to the Emergency Powers Act 1955. How say you?"

"I plead guilty to saying that," said Victoria, "but not guilty to sedition." Even by the increasingly repressive standards of the Patten government, it was unusual to charge sedition merely for speaking in favor of a banned party; the indictment against Victoria was likely motivated more by desire for revenge than anything else. The guerrilla leaders that the government really wanted to get were safe in Bunyoro or Abyssinia, so the public prosecutor evidently intended to satisfy himself by indicting the members of their political wing. And its associates as well; Victoria wasn't a member of the National Congress, but she was the attorney to which its members came when their advocacy of African rights resulted in criminal charges.

What does Patten hope to get out of this? wondered Victoria. If I'm convicted of sedition, I'll be sentenced to a fine, or six months' gaol - does he really think that prospect frightens me? I've gone to gaol before, and I was back in court the day after my release. He must be hoping that this time, they'll take my law license - but I've lost that before, too, and it hasn't stopped me...

"Very well, then, Mrs. Madoka," said the magistrate. "Your plea is entered and you are remanded for trial. Does the public prosecutor have anything to say about release?"

"Yes, your Honor," said the deputy prosecutor - Victoria remembered his name as being Hodges, but there was little to distinguish him from the other grey-suited young gentlemen of the public prosecutor's office. "The accused, Victoria, is a repeat offender..."

"Excuse me, your Honor," Victoria interrupted. "I ask that you direct Mr. Hodges to refer to me by my married name."

"I will certainly refer to you as such, Mrs. Madoka," said Magistrate Douglas. "I believe you are entitled to it. As you are aware, however, use of your married title isn't required by law, so I have no power to direct the public prosecutor to do so. I will take this opportunity to request that he refer to you as Mrs. Madoka henceforward, but I can't force him. You may continue, Mr. Hodges."

"As I was saying your Honor," said Hodges, "the accused is a repeat offender who has been convicted of seditious speech on two prior occasions. I have every reason to believe that, if released pending trial, Victoria will continue to flout the law. I ask that she be retained in custody."

"Do you have anything to add, Mrs. Madoka?" asked the magistrate.

"Only that Mr. Hodges is correct in every detail."

"Application denied, Mr. Hodges," the judge said. "Mrs. Madoka, you are released on your own recognizance. Do you have counsel?"

"I intend to represent myself, your Honor," she said.

"I'm sure you're aware that you have a fool for a client, Mrs. Madoka," said the magistrate, "but I'll presume that you know what you're doing. Trial is set for April thirtieth."

"Thank you, your Honor," said Victoria. Hodges followed suit, sounding distinctly ungrateful.

"Before you leave, Mrs. Madoka," interrupted the judge, "I'd like to know one thing. Your presence here, on these charges, puzzles me a great deal. You're obviously an intelligent young woman, and I have a great deal of respect for your abilities in the courtroom. I'm wondering why someone like you would support those radical terrorists. This country has treated you well - allowed you to be a citizen, to practice law..."

"I believe, your Honor," said Victoria, "that your use of the word 'allow' in that context sums up my objection to the current state of affairs in this country."

"Surely you don't believe that practicing law is a right rather than a privilege?"

"About practicing law, I can't say. But I do think that being a citizen is a right, and that I shouldn't be required to show an income of five hundred pounds to qualify for it - especially since I wouldn't have to do so if my skin were a different color."

"But surely a government is entitled to restrict the franchise to ensure that it is exercised responsibly?" asked the judge. "It's entirely reasonable, I think, for those without a tradition of self-rule to show that they are qualified for it by education or substance."

"I've heard that justification before," Victoria answered, "and I don't mind saying that it reminds me a great deal of Joseph Sarian's play, Carousel. Without an opportunity to exercise self-rule, how are Africans supposed to develop a tradition of it?"

"A fascinating subject for discussion, no doubt," said the judge. "And no doubt we will have occasion to pursue it, the next time we see each other. But I have other cases on my calendar today, Mrs. Madoka, so it will have to wait. April thirtieth, both of you..."


(Forward to FAN #51B: Victoria's Secret (Part 2).)

(Return to For All Nails.)

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