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Beaten Zimbabwean Labor Leaders Seek Compensatory Damages

Trade union leaders and political opposition members allegedly beaten by police while being held at Matapi police station in Harare on September 13 following a protest have filed notice of intention to sue the police for more than Z$2 billion.

But the lawyer representing the leaders of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and Movement for Democratic Change members said the damages being sought could rise once those allegedly beaten have received their hospital bills.

ZCTU attorney Alec Muchadehama told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that damages sought were proportionate to the injuries received.

Named as respondents in the ZCTU filing are Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi and Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuru along with top police officials in Harare and the individual police officers accused of beating the 15 protest leaders.

The alleged police beatings of arrested protesters in holding cells drew widespread condemnation. They inspired a special report by Human Rights Watch, which said the government of President Robert Mugabe was stepping up violent repression against those organization protests of the country's steep economic and social decline.

Police arrested the union officials, including Secretary General Wellington Chibhebhe, after foiling a ZCTU protest over declining living standards. Medical reports confirmed the activists had been beaten and a Harare magistrate ordered a police inquiry.

Deputy Home Affairs Minister Reuben Marumahoko initially told parliament that police used minimum force to quell the demonstration. Marumahoko said demonstrators were injured trying to escape arrest by jumping off moving police vehicles, and charged that others turned violent and caused serious damage to three police vehicles.

But President Robert Mugabe praised the conduct of the police and said in comments to Zimbabwean diplomats in Cairo that the labor leaders deserved such treatment.

Mr. Mugabe, in Cairo on his way home from a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, declared: "We cannot have a situation where people decide to sit in places not allowed and when police remove them they say no...That is a revolt to the system. Some are crying that they were beaten. Yes you will be thoroughly beaten. When the police say move you move. If you don’t move, you invite the police to use force."

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