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Fear Voiced For Safety Of Detained Zimbabwe Opposition Members


A lawyer representing nine detained officials and members of the Movement for Democratic Change said Thursday that he fears for their lives because authorities have defied a court order instructing that they receive medical attention.

The nine activists were removed last week from the Avenues Clinic in Harare by police without the consent of their doctors and taken to the Harare remand jail. Among the nine still being detained at the lockup was parliamentarian Paul Madzore, who represents the Harare district of Glenview, an opposition stronghold.

Authorities say the men organized a recent string of firebomb attacks. The men have denied the charges and opposition sources said they have been beaten by police.

The Harare magistrate's court has denied them bail on three separate occasions. The Harare high court today ruled that their cases should be set down for April 11 so that the office of the attorney general can conduct its own investigation.

Lawyer Alec Muchadehama, representing the accused, told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that police disregard of court orders is disturbing.

Elsewhere, the widow of slain opposition activist Gift Tandare said she has gone into hiding after being harassed by police who she said demanded the names of National Constitutional Assembly members who attended a memorial service for her husband held in a Harare suburb on March 27. Gift Tandare was shot dead by police March 11 in a confrontation in Highfield after the authorities blocked a prayer meeting.

Tandare's body later was taken from a funeral home in Harare by suspected agents of the central intelligence organization and buried in secrecy in his rural home town.

His widow, Spiwe Tandare, told reporter Patience Rusere that she decided to go into hiding this week after at least five police cars surrounded her Glenview home.

In a separate incident, suspected state security agents tried to abduct the head of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe in Harare on Wednesday, the final day of a two-day general strike called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. As head of the teachers union, Majongwe is a member of the ZCTU general council.

In recent weeks, suspected operatives of the feared Central Intelligence Organization have been kidnapping opposition members, brutally beating them and dumping them in remote locations scores of kilometers from the capital.

Majongwe told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that he fears for his life as another group of suspected CIO operatives visited his home yesterday afternoon.

The opposition has maintained for weeks that the state has organized what Movement for Democratic Change founder Morgan Tsvangirai called "hit squads" to brutalize and terrorize opponents of the government of President Robert Mugabe. But nerves have been put on edge by a document now in circulation which purports to indicate that army intelligence has marked some opposition members for death.

The document, a copy of which was obtained by VOA, purports to be a communication from a Central Intelligence Organization official in the office of President Mugabe to a "Comrade Colonel Chaminyuka" in the Zimbabwe Intelligence Corps, an army unit.

Listed in the purported army communication by name or under a simple alphabetical code are Tsvangirai, Majongwe, rival faction chief Arthur Mutambara, human rights lawyer Arnold Tsunga, National Constitutional Assembly Chairman Lovemore Madhuku, Tsvangirai faction treasurer Roy Bennett, and others.

The phone number listed on the document for "Colonel Chaminyuka" was answered by a Colonel Muhambi at army headquarters who said Chaminyuka was not available. He said army intelligence was aware that copies of such a letter were circulating, but that there was no such list of opposition figures to be targeted.

Madhuku expressed skepticism as to the authenticity of the document, saying that he found it difficult to believe that intelligence officials would put such a plan in writing.

But human rights lawyer Arnold Tsunga, director of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, who had also seen a copy of the document, was taking it seriously and told VOA that Harare has embarked on a campaign to silence its critics.

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

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

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