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Zimbabwe Opposition Releases Annual Report On Political Violence

Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change has published its charges of political violence for 2004 -- blaming it on the ruling ZANU-PF party. Zanu P.F. is denying the claims.

The Movement for Democratic Change says seven of its members of parliament, 53 party officials, and hundreds of activists were subjected to arrest, intimidation, beatings or torture in 2004. The 15-page report says violence began three days into the year.

The report says every second day during January, somebody seen as connected with the M.D.C. was beaten up, knocked unconscious, raped, had their homes destroyed or their children attacked and abducted. Two died that month.

The report says the pace of violence picked up again before parliament by-elections.

The rate of attacks decreased slightly after the M.D.C. announced at the end of August
it would take part in no more elections.

Most of the violence described by the report was gang attacks, destruction of poor
people's property, arrests, rape, torture, and beatings. Most of the victims in the report are named, and the M.D.C. also names many of those it says were the perpetrators.

Many of the incidents appeared in monthly reports by the independent group of researchers from the Human Rights Forum.

In a statement accompanying the M.D.C. charges, party spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi called the report "an indictment of the activities of the current government." Mr. Nyathi said the report proves that political oppression remains what he called "a pervasive force" in Zimbabwe.

The Zanu P.F. government has dismissed the M.D.C. accusations and those contained in reports by the Human Rights Forum. Numerous government statements in the past few weeks have said information about human-rights abuses is collected by foreign-funded non governmental organizations that are enemies of the people of Zimbabwe. Parliament moved last week to ban such organizations.

In his state-of-the nation address Thursday, President Robert Mugabe called for a peaceful campaign before parliamentary elections next March. This coming weekend the M.D.C. national executive meets to debate whether it will take part in those elections.