A Harare magistrate on Thursday ordered the country's commissioner of police to open an investigation into allegations that the Zimbabwe Republic Police have been beating and torturing opposition activists held in custody since late March.
The court instructions to Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri followed charges from one of the detained activists made in open court that he and other members of the Movement for Democratic Change have been severely mistreated, reported correspondent Thomas Chiripasi of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe.
On Wednesday, a senior official in the MDC faction of Morgan Tsvangirai, who was severely beaten himself while in police custody March 11-13, issued an appeal to the international community at the United Nations in New York to bring pressure on the government of Zimbabwe to release 28 activists held since late March.
Grace Kwinjeh, deputy secretary for international affairs of the Tsvangirai faction, who received treatment in South Africa for injuries sustained while in police custody, told a news conference that five of the 28 being held are "in a very bad state."
Kwinjeh told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyele that although international attention to the crackdown on the opposition has waned, "it is a dire situation" because lower-level MDC members are being abducted daily by state agents and severely beaten.
"The situation, while it's not big names that are being targeted, is really bad because a lot of our active supporters, mobilizers, are the ones being targeted," she said.
Police raided the Harare headquarters of the Tsvangirai faction on March 28, saying they were investigating a series of firebombings of police posts and other targets and sought evidence against MDC officials and supporters. The MDC faction's staff was detained with a number of officials and supporters, and since then police and prosecutors have brought a variety of charges against those held.
Authorities initially said they had discovered arms and explosives, and more recently have alleged that MDC members received sabotage training in South Africa.
MDC officials and their lawyers say police and prosecutors have dispensed with legal procedure and used various delaying tactics to keep the accused in custody, while magistrates and judges have given police ample time for investigations.