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Zimbabwe activists likely assaulted in custody

Sun., April 1, 2007

HARARE, Zimbabwe – Nine opposition activists who were to be arraigned Saturday on charges of attempted murder and illegal weapons possession all required medical attention for injuries sustained since their arrests, doctors said.

One of the activists collapsed in the courthouse and the judge agreed to lawyers’ appeals to adjourn the hearing and allow them to get medical treatment, opposition officials told reporters at the Harare magistrates’ court.

Doctors and staff at private medical facilities where the detainees were taken under police guard said the nine – who were detained on Tuesday and Wednesday – appeared to have been assaulted while in custody.

The government blames the activists for a wave of unrest and firebombings, allegations they have repeatedly denied. Lawyers say the activists could face additional terrorism-related charges that carry sentences of life imprisonment or the death penalty.

President Robert Mugabe has been criticized for a clampdown on opposition activists and other rights violations, and critics say his government is corrupt and responsible for an economic meltdown in the country. Official inflation, fueled by corruption and black market dealing, is 1,700 percent, the highest in the world.


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