Probe ordered into Zimbabwe tortures

Harare – A Zimbabwe court on Thursday ordered an investigation into the alleged torture of seven activists accused in a series of bombings, in a case that has raised doubts about a faltering unity accord.

"The court orders the attorney general’s office to ask the police to investigate the allegations raised by the defence and to compile a report which should be brought to court on January 23," Magistrate Olivia Mariga said.

Lawyers on Wednesday told the court that the activists – including the director of security for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and a former adviser to party leader Morgan Tsvangirai – were "severely tortured" by police.

The lawyers also urged the court to toss out the charges, saying they were tortured into confessing to crimes they did not commit and that they were victims of abductions.

"They were unlawfully abducted and not properly (brought) before you, and they have been tortured," lawyer Alec Muchadehama told the court, calling allegations of a bomb plot "fictitious".

The activists stand accused of bombing two police stations in Harare as well as two bridges outside the capital "for the purposes of causing insurrection in Zimbabwe". They denied the charges.

The seven were among 18 opposition and rights activists detained at unknown locations, some since late October.

The arrest of the activists has heightened fears for a September power-sharing deal signed by Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe, which has stalled over disputes about dividing control of key cabinet posts.

The hearing continues on Friday. – AFP