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Zimbabwe Lawyers Try to Free Hundreds of Detainees as Mugabe's ZANU-PF Becomes Official Opposition


The Zimbabwe Election Commission has confirmed that the Movement for Democratic Change is the majority party in the legislature after a recount of 23 voting districts. Peta Thornycroft reports from Harare that this victory, first reported on April 3, makes little difference to hundreds of detainees from the MDC who are in police cells.

A high court judge in Harare Monday ordered that MDC detainees had to be charged or released. Some were arrested last Friday and among them are people injured in political violence.

Others were refused bail last week although the state has produced no evidence they were involved, as charged, with violence.

Alex Muchadahama is the MDC's lawyer who spent the weekend looking for missing party members. He went to towns where some of his clients had been found in police cells. He said some of them were badly injured.

Two of them were in cells in the Murewa Police Station about 60 kilometers northeast of Harare.

One 28-year-old man was so badly injured he could not stand up. He found other detainees in several more towns which all used to be ZANU-PF strongholds.

Machadahama then launched an urgent application in the Harare High Court to force the release of his clients.

He also said that he suspected that about 16 MDC supporters, who have disappeared in the eastern border town Mutare, may be locked up in army barracks there.

No government security ministers or police were available for comment Monday.

In theory however, life should change for the detainees as their party has been confirmed as having won control of the legislature.

Results of the recount by the Zimbabwe Election Commission so far reveal that ZANU-PF did not win the nine seats it needed to reverse its loss of control of the legislature.

The recount, ordered by the Commission at the request of ZANU-PF has taken 10 days already. Judge Chiweshe said verification procedures would begin Tuesday for the results of the presidential poll.

Those results were also available on April 3, but the commission did not release them.

Several independent and international observers report that seals of boxes holding the presidential vote had been broken in several voting districts. This was noted during the beginning of the recount.

Results of local government elections have still not been published by the Commission.

The Commission has not replied to questions on why the local government results, while released four weeks ago, are still not published.

About 1,450 local government seats were up for election and a further 400 were uncontested and went to ZANU-PF.

Noel Kututwa, chairman of the independent Zimbabwe Election Support Network has handed himself over to police. Police raided the network's offices Friday and said they wanted to meet with its executives. Lawyers are still with Kututwa at the Harare Central Police Station.

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