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Members of Zimbabwe PM Tsvangirai's MDC Charged in Death of Policeman

  • Thomas Chiripasi

The state says MDC activists in Glen View killed Inspector Petros Mutedza after officers arrived at the Munyarari club to disperse party members allegedly holding a political meeting; the MDC denies this

Twelve activists of the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai were arraigned on Friday on charges of murder in connection with the death May 29 of a Zimbabwe Republic Police inspector in a Harare suburb.

The 12 officials and activists of the Tsvangirai MDC wing accused in the death of Petros Mutedza at a bar-liquor store in Glen View on Sunday entered innocent pleas and said the charges were politically inspired, VOA correspondent Thomas Chiripasi reported.

Lead defense attorney Charles Kwaramba told the magistrate that the activists, some of whose faces were swollen and who had visible wounds on their limbs, had been beaten while in police custody. He charged that their ordeal in jail amounted to torture.

Kwaramba said officers used gun butts, batons, boots and open hands in assaulting the accused, who showed their injuries to the court. He said his clients had been held longer than the law allows without police obtaining a warrant of further detention.

Kwaramba said the activists had been denied access to food and legal counsel while in custody. He said Tungamiri Madzokere, a Glen View councilor, might have sustained internal injuries in the course of police beatings. The lawyer asked the magistrate to order the activists be examined by a doctor of their own choice in remand custody.

State prosecutor Edmore Nyazamba opposed Kwaramba's request, saying the prisons department had medical staff to attend to the needs of the detained.

Magistrate Shane Kubonera ordered the prison services department to ensure state doctors would immediately attend to the needs of the accused.

Kwaramba complained that MDC National Executive Member Last Maingehama, among the accused, has been held at Matapi Police station in Mbare, Harare, although the Supreme Court has condemned the holding cells there as unfit for habitation.

He said Maingehama was assaulted by the police following his arrest Monday. He said the police officers took turns assaulting Maingehama in the Matapi holding cells and forced other prisoners to assault him as a way to degrade the party official.

Kwaramba said police forced Madzokere and another accused, Yvonne Musarurwa, to put on MDC-T shirts before being taken to the scene of their alleged crime where they were videotaped for what the attorney said would likely be sinister purposes.

He sought an order obliging the Office of the Attorney General to investigate the alleged torture of the activists while in police hands.

Prosecutor Nyazamba opposed this saying Parliament's committee on justice could carry out such an investigation. But the magistrate ordered the probe to be conducted by the Office of the Attorney General, stressing that this should be impartial.

Kubonera said the findings of the AG's investigation should be reported to the court on or before the next remand date of June 17.

Attorney General Johannes Tomana told VOA said he will obey the magistrates directive on investigating alleged police abuses though he said such complaints are routine.

Court papers said the police have launched a manhunt for Mbare Councilor Paul Gorekore and another activist identified as Manyengavana in connection with the alleged murder. The state says MDC activists in Glen View killed Mutedza after officers arrived at the bar to disperse party members allegedly holding a political meeting.

The party says that account is untrue. Police and defense sources say 13 others remain in detention who were not arraigned on Friday. They said most of those who were not arraigned are staff of the Munyarari club and will be produced as state witnesses.

Police said plainclothes officers on hand at the time of the incident will also testify.

Attorney General Johannes Tomana told VOA said he will obey the magistrates directive on investigating alleged police abuses though he said such complaints are routine.

Glen View and Mbare remained tense, meanwhile, as officials of the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe and Mr. Tsvangirai's MDC traded recriminations.

Residents of the two suburbs said they are fleeing what has become a virtual war zone. The Glen View Residents Trust told VOA that police have imposed a 7 p-m curfew. It said residents have been beaten indiscriminately by roving police.

Sources said alleged ZANU-PFf youths have been evicting MDC supporters from their homes and informal trading stands in retaliation for the death of the officer.

Tsvangirai MDC spokesman Douglas Mwonzora said party supporters are under siege. But ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo said his party is not behind the crackdown.

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