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Zimbabwe Opposition Activists Poisoned as Political Violence Continues


Three people from central Zimbabwe, under police guard in a state hospital in Harare, say they were not only beaten, but forced to drink poison when they were attacked earlier this month. Peta Thornycroft reports that the three are being charged with attempted murder, although they are the victims of savage attacks and are severely injured.

The violence against opposition activists and members of the Movement for Democratic Change continues. Many of those now in hospitals around the country say they have escaped from military bases run by members of the ruling ZANU-PF. They are able to identify ruling party members by name.

It has taken several weeks for some to get medical attention in the eastern city of Mutare. Four people were admitted to hospital Monday with severely deep wounds. They say they had been held captive since around June 27, when President Robert Mugabe was the only candidate in a second round of presidential voting.

In Harare, three people are receiving some medical attention under police guard in the state's Parirenyatwa Hospital. Hilton Chironga his mother Neria, and a friend Hama Ngowani say they were severely beaten on July 2 in their home village about 100 kilometers west of Harare.

Hilton's father, Gibbs Chironga, an MDC councilor, was killed on June 20.

They say after their beatings, they were forced to drink a white liquid, and both still complain of severe stomach pains 13 days later. Neria Chironga is only able to drink milk.

Farmers say the liquid could be a common and inexpensive insecticide manufactured in Zimbabwe which can cause severe internal injuries if swallowed.

The three are all to be charged with attempted murder. Hilton Chironga, with two bullet wounds, on an arm and a leg, and with a face distorted by injuries, says he has no idea who they are supposed to have attempted to murder.

He names nine of the approximately 15 people he says assaulted him and forced him to drink poison.

His sister, Susan, is under arrest at Bindura Prison, also charged with attempted murder. Neria Chironga only learned Monday that her daughter was in prison and not dead.

Human rights lawyer Alec Muchadahama said 14 MDC activists and officials charged with setting fire to an old bus in Harare, have had charges withdrawn.

He said there were between 500 and 1,000 MDC detainees around the country. He said none had committed any of the charges brought up against them. One by one, he said, they were being released on bail or charges were being withdrawn.

Lawyers say they cannot recall a single MDC member, among tens of thousands arrested and charged over eight years, ever being prosecuted and convicted of any violent crime.

Muchadahama said the conditions in prisons and police cells were inhumane and a grave threat to detainees' health.

There are no working toilets in the overwhelming majority of police cells and prisons around Zimbabwe.

Convicted prisoners are reportedly starving in state prisons.

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