Police refuse to release 46 arrested for Egypt style protests

Harare, – Former Highfields MDC MP Munyaradzi Gwisai and 45 other social and human rights activists spent another night in police cells on Monday as it emerged police were battling to find charges to proffer against them.

The 46 were arrested on Saturday here for allegedly plotting to oust President Robert Mugabe using the Egypt style which forced President Hosni Mubarak to relinquish power two weeks ago.

Police claimed they had organised a meeting where they played video footage of the Egypt uprising allegedly to “inspire and motivate people to demonstrate against the government”.

Lawyers spent the better part of Monday at Harare Central Police in desperate attempts to secure their release.

“We failed to secure their release on Monday after spending several hours at the Central Police. We are trying to secure their release but we are encountering problems,’ said Alec Muchadehama, the lawyer representing the 46.

“Police seem to have problems on what to charge them with and for,” said Muchadehama.

The lawyers were expected back at Harare Central Police on Tuesday as they battle to have the 46 activists brought to court.

The arrest of Gwisai and the 45 others came as it emerged that police on Sunday issued a warrant of arrest for Job Sikhala, the leader of the MDC 99 as the crackdown on perceived dissent escalated. In a terse statement Sikhala said police wanted to charge him of comments he made on social network Facebook.

He said the ZRP Harare Central Police CID Law and Order issued the warrant of arrest against Sikhala on Sunday night.

The arrest follows the arrests last week of several civil society leaders and MDC T legislators on separate charges.

Analysts, citing the repressive security laws and a partisan police force, army and state security agents, said an Egypt time of a revolution was not possible in Zimbabwe. They said police were on a fishing expedition.

Meanwhile Seven of the arrested human rights activists have raised torture allegations against the police.

“When lawyers finally managed to gain access to their 46 clients for about two hours they were advised upon interviewing some of the detainees that at least seven of them had been tortured by the “unidentified men” who during the said torture sessions were questioning detainees about the meeting and the discussions,” Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said in an alert issued late on Monday.

“Lawyers were totally denied access by senior police officers and some unidentified men who without any explanation and just cause ruthlessly and rudely chased away the lawyers at about 20:00 hours. Subsequent efforts to gain access to their clients so as to ascertain the medical requirements of the 46 were also met with resistance by the unidentified men in civilian clothes,” ZLHR said.

The lawyers’ group says the police have indicated that their clients could possibly be charged with contravening section 22 (2) (a) (i) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, that is attempting to overthrow the government by unconstitutional means.