Washington concerned over torture allegations in Zimbabwe

Posted: 04/03/2011 in Africa, Constitution, Demonstration, Egypt, Elections, Gwisai, Human Rights, Libya, MDC, Mugabe, Police, police brutality, Politics, Revolution, Torture, Treason Charges, U. S, United States, Washington, Zimbabwe

Washington (CNN) — The United States
expressed concern Thursday about recent
arrests in Zimbabwe of political and civil society
activists and allegations by their lawyer that
some of them were tortured.
On February 19 , former Movement for
Democratic Change Member of Parliament
Munyaradzi Gwisai and 45 other labor union
and student activists ” who had gathered
peacefully to discuss recent events in Egypt “
were arrested and charged with treason , State
Department spokesman Philip J . Crowley said in
a statement .
Other political and civil society activists have
also been arrested, he said.
” Gwisai ‘ s defense attorney has reported that
several of the 46 people were tortured while in
custody, and we understand that the magistrate
has ordered physical examinations to
substantiate those claims,” he said. ” We call on
the government to provide medical attention for
those who need it and , if torture occurred , to
take immediate action to hold the perpetrators
accountable . “
A ruling on the charges’ merits is to be delivered
March 7 .
Crowley called on the government of Zimbabwe
to uphold rights spelled out under the
International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights and to ensure that those arrested are
guaranteed due process .
Zimbabwean authorities said the 46 people were
arrested and charged with treason after they
were caught watching footage of the protests
that led to the ouster of Tunisian leader Zine El
Abidine Ben Ali and Egyptian President Hosni
Mubarak .
” On 16 February they held a meeting and the
purpose of the meeting was to organize,
strategize and implement the removal of a
constitutional government of Zimbabwe by
unconstitutional means , the Tunisian-Egyptian
way ,” prosecutor Edmore Nyazamba said last
week in court .
At least 12 of the activists were beaten with
broomsticks on their buttocks and the soles of
their feet, defense attorney Alec Muchadehama
told a packed courtroom on Thursday . All 46
defendants were charged with treason, a charge
that carries a death sentence in Zimbabwe.
” If watching television footage of the uprisings
was treason, most Zimbabweans would be guilty
of it because we watch news daily,”
Muchadehama said .
Robert Mugabe, 87 , has ruled Zimbabwe since
independence in 1980 . Like Mubarak and Ben
Ali , he has been accused of rigging elections and
instituting repressive laws to tighten his grip on
power .
The arrests may be an indication that authorities
are worried that the changes sweeping across
north Africa may inspire Zimbabweans to rise
up . The opposition Movement for Democratic
Change, MDC, which is in a troubled unity
government with Mugabe’ s ZANU-PF , has called
the arrests ” an abuse of state machinery by
ZANU-PF to suppress the people’s views . “
Mugabe ‘s policies over the past decade have
been blamed for plunging the once-prosperous
country into economic crisis . Mugabe has called
for an election this year , but his political rival
and leader of the MDC, Morgan Tsvangirai, has
threatened to boycott the poll if a referendum
on a new constitution is not held .

By the CNN Wire Staff
March 4 , 2011 — Updated 0151 GMT ( 0951
HKT )

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