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Zimbabwe Police Say Union Leaders Hurt While Attempting Escape

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions Secretary General Wellington Chibhebhe and 31 others in the labor organization were arraigned today in Harare Magistrate’s court and a trial date was set for October 17, legal sources said.

But their prosecution on charges of illegally demonstrating was overshadowed as the magistrate threw out a police report saying the injuries sustained by the labor activists on September 13 were not caused by beatings but incurred resisting arrest.

Magistrate William Bhilla dismissed the police findings after the lawyer for the trade unionists raised objections to the investigation's method and its findings.

A new investigation by Zimbabwe's Criminal Investigation Department has been launched and is expected to issue its own findings on October 17.

Chibhebhe his associates face charges of gathering illegally and "displaying tendencies likely to disrupt the peace." Union member Moses Ngondo attended the hearing on a stretcher bed due to the injuries he sustained September 13.

Police denied responsibility for the injuries and said they merely restrained the trade unionists, using minimal force, when they resisted arrest. Police statements said the union officials "went wild" and tried to escape three times, breaking a vehicle lock.

Police denied withholding food from the union officials during their detention, as has been alleged, saying the labor activists refused to eat the food given them. They said the prisoners were put in the condemned Matapi station because it was nearest.

Lawyer Alec Muchadahama, representing the 32 accused labor officials, said in an interview with reporter Patience Rusere that the police assertions were false.

More reports From VOA's Studio 7 For Zimbabwe...