The US-based Freedom House and the women's assembly of Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change on Friday demanded the release of two female activists held since September 21 by police in Bulawayo.
Women of Zimbabwe Arise organizers Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu were arrested during a demonstration on International Peace Day and held on charges of kidnapping and theft going back to an earlier protest in July.
Freedom House condemned the arrests and deplored what it described as a continued crackdown on freedom of expression and other basic human rights in Zimbabwe.
Freedom House Advocacy Director Paula Schriefer said her organization was concerned about threats by Zimbabwean officials to put the WOZA activists in male prison cells.
"The horrific use of violence by police against peaceful demonstrators on a day intended to bring about peace is an unacceptable violation of the fundamental human rights of Zimbabweans, including freedom of speech and assembly," Schriefer said.
MDC Women’s Assembly Secretary Linnette Karenyi-Kore said police continue to target WOZA hoping to discourage its members from protesting. The organization and its mainly female grass-roots members frequently go into the streets to demand reform.
Attorney Lizwe Jamela of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said the Office of the Attorney General said Friday that the judge assigned to the WOZA case still has not indicated when the matter will be heard.