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Zimbabwe Activists Say 2007 Worst Year For Human Rights Since 2000

A grouping of Zimbabwean human rights organizations released a report Wednesday declaring 2007 the country's worst year for rights violations since 2000, when that year's general election resulted in a surge of political-related violence.

The report by the Human Rights NGO Forum, entitled “At Best a Falsehood, At Worst A Lie,” takes to task two reports issued by the Zimbabwe Republic Police accusing the political opposition and civil society groups of perpetrating violence.

Forum Chairman Noel Kututwa said a copy of the report went to the Commissioner of Police Augustine Chihuri and Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi, but he said neither attended or sent a representative to the launch of the report.

ZRP spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena declined to comment on the report.

Kututwa told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the report was issued set the record straight and to end alleged rights violations.

Meanwhile, some 15 plainclothes policemen in five vehicles raided the Harare home of Women’s Coalition Chairwoman Betty Makoni Tuesday taking her and two American women filmmakers making a documentary on her activism into custody.

Sources close to the situation said the police seized the film equipment and detained the three women all day Tuesday, then released them at the end of the day with instructions to return the following morning.

Lawyer Dzimbabwe Chimbwa said late Wednesday that the two Americans had been charged with violating the country's Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, or AIPPA, by engaging in journalism without proper accreditation.

Makoni was released without being charged, the lawyer said.

Women’s Coalition Director Netsai Mushonga told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that police suspected the two American women were producing material that would portray Zimbabwe in a negative light.

In other related news, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change faction led by Arthur Mutambara said police in the Harare satellite town of Chitungwiza made further arrests Wednesday in connection with a prayer meeting held there Saturday.

Opposition parliamentarian Job Sikhala, who represents the St Mary's constituency of Chitungwiza, said his faction was still identifying the church leaders and opposition members picked up by police in the latest round of arrests.

Chitungwiza police detained at least five people, including several clerics, as they held a prayer meeting with members of the MDC at the Nyamutamba Hotel.

Lawyer James Tabora said three others were later picked up at their homes later Monday, but were released after being questioned by the police.

Tabora said the five detained Saturday were released after paying Z$40,000 fines.

He told reporter Carole Gombakomba that although police were not giving him any information on the case, there was no indication as of late Wednesday afternoon that they had charged those detained under the Public Order and Security Act.

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