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Active And Retired Zimbabwean Army Officers Held In Alleged Coup Plot

Zimbabwe’s state security agents have arrested active and retired army officers and other ranks charging they plotted a coup against President Robert Mugabe.

But some observers said that the alleged plot has been cooked up by authorities to purge the restive army and send a message to would-be conspirators.

Army officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said barracks are tense as officers and troops have been picked up at night, tortured, and court martialed.

Sources said the investigation is led by the Central Intelligence Organization and military intelligence. ZANU-PF insiders said the alleged coup conspiracy is tied to the struggle with in the ruling party to succeed President Mugabe, now 83. Mr. Mugabe is seeking re-election in March 2008, but has hinted he may soon after step down.

Zimbabwe’s weekly Financial Gazette reported Thursday that a top ZANU-PF official has been linked to the alleged plot. The Daily Telegraph of London and other papers have identified that top ruling party official as Minister of Rural Amenities Emmerson Mnangagwa, head of a faction vying with that led by Vice President Joyce Mujuru.

Mnangagwa told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that he was not aware of the alleged conspiracy, characterizing the charge as "total rubbish."

Harare lawyer Charles Warara confirmed that he is representing some alleged coup plotters facing charges of high treason behind closed doors. He said the alleged coup leaders were were tortured and have been denied access to medical treatment as directed by the magistrate court, which has been hearing evidence in camera.

Gilbert Kagodora, treasurer of the Mashonaland Central branch of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change faction of Morgan Tsvangirai, said he was detained and tortured with alleged plot mastermind Albert Machapo, a retired army officer.

Kagodora said the CIO tortured him and Machapo in an effort to implicate the MDC.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...