May 26, 2007

Police detains more than 200 opposition activists

Zimbabwe police have arrested more than 200 opposition activists and officials during a meeting the party was holding at its headquarters, an opposition spokesman said. "They raided the offices at Harvest House. They had no search warrant. They gave no reasons but they have taken in our members who were holding meetings there," Nelson Chamisa of the Movement for Democratic Change said. In the meantime, police have freed the bulk of 200 youth opposition activists arrested in that raid. Alec Muchadehama, a lawyer representing the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) opposition members, said: "They [police] have detained 41 MDC youth members out of about 200 who were arrested." He added: "As far as we know they have not been charged and the police say they are only being questioned."
Police spokesperson Andrew Phiri was quoted on state radio as saying that the youths were suspects in a spate of fire bombings across Zimbabwe, adding that they had been implicated by their colleagues during interrogation. MDC lawmaker Paul Madzore and 31 activists are in prison on remand after being arrested in March during a police crackdown on the opposition and charged with terrorism, banditry and sabotage. They are accused of undergoing training in neighbouring South Africa on how to make and use firebombs. The MDC, which launched a campaign to pressure the government to release its members, has said the charges are "mere fabrication". Dozens of MDC activists - including leader Morgan Tsvangirai - were detained by members of veteran President Robert Mugabe's security forces and assaulted in March after they defied the ban on rallies and tried to hold an anti-government prayer meeting. (The Mail & Guardian, South Africa)

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