STOCKTON North MP Frank Cook is campaigning to prevent the deportation of a Zimbabwe woman living in the town.

On Wednesday, Mr Cook accompanied Edneth Gotora to the Home Office where she handed in a petition bearing more than 17,000 names, calling on Home Secretary Charles Clarke to reconsider the decision to reject her application for asylum.

Mrs Gotora fled Zimbabwe in 2002 after her husband, who had been involved in speaking and distributing literature against the ruling Zanu PF party, was killed and her four-year-old daughter was so seriously injured that she later died.

During a visit to see her daughter in hospital, Mrs Gotora was abducted and taken into a "rehabilitation" camp where she was raped by the camp leader.

Mrs Gotora was also joined in London by the Rev Sheila Maxey, national moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church, and the Rev Colin Offor, of the United Reformed Church in Stockton, who have supported her throughout the campaign.

Mr Cook has also tabled a Notice of Motion in the House of Commons expressing "dismay" at the Government's decision to resume deportations to Zimbabwe.

The motion highlights the case of Mrs Gotora and calls on the Home Secretary "to exercise his discretion under the law to grant this much-wronged lady the shelter she so desperately needs."

Mr Cook said: "I have been deeply impressed by both Mrs Gotora herself and the tremendous support she has received from the United Reformed Church where she has been a loved and valued member since coming to live in Stockton.

"I have no doubt that she has been through unspeakable experiences at the hands of the Mugabe regime. I fully support the representations of the United Reformed Church in describing as nave and lacking in compassion the apparent view of the Home Office and the Asylum Tribunal that she would no longer be in any danger if she was returned to Zimbabwe because her husband is now dead.

"I sincerely hope that Charles Clarke will recognise the strength of the case put forward by the church on behalf of Mrs Gotora and will recognise that this woman has suffered enough and should be allowed to stay."