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Zimbabwean Activist Accuses Security Forces of Torture

A Zimbabwean activist who says he was one of several dozen who have been detained in the past month has appeared in neighboring South Africa saying he escaped after being abducted and tortured by Zimbabwean security forces.

A local council member for the Movement for Democratic Change told reporters Tuesday he was taken from his home by Zimbabwean security officials in the middle of the night on December 13.

Bothwell Pasimire, who was elected last March to the MDC local council of Kadoma, 140 kilometers south of Harare, said he was taken to a farmhouse where he was tortured, deprived of sleep and hosed with water.

After several days Pasimire says he was obliged to sign a confession on camera that he had been recruited for military training in neighboring Botswana and had killed members of the Zimbabwe military.

"If I refused I was beaten. So they wanted me to say yes. All the answers they asked me to say yes because if I refused I would be tortured again. So I complied with them," he said.

Pasimire says he and other prisoners were forced to pretend to beat to death a Zimbabwean soldier, which was also video-recorded.

The 30-year-old activist says about four days later while being transferred to Harare, he managed to escape. He says he was aided by some of his captors who he says do not all support what the government is doing.

He was smuggled into South Africa where MDC officials allowed him to tell his story to the media after making sure his family was safe.

VOA confirmed that Bothwell Pasimire is on the list of dozens of MDC activists being held by Zimbabwean authorities, some without charge, despite court orders to produce and release them.

The Zimbabwean government has accused some of the detainees of recruiting opponents for military training in order to overthrow the Mugabe government, an allegation the MDC denies.

Pasimire says Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF is carrying out the abuses in order to portray the MDC as a violent group, which he says is not true. He says this is because the government is under increasing pressure because of a deteriorating economy and lack of food.

"The situation in Zimbabwe on its own is going to force Mugabe to step down. Because right now hospitals are closed, schools are closed, people are dying of cholera," he said. "While Mr. Mugabe is there, he is not taking any action. So the situation is going to force Mr. Mugabe to step down whether he likes it or not."

ZANU-PF and the MDC in September signed a power-sharing agreement aimed at ending the Zimbabwean crisis. But the accord has not been implemented because of a dispute over several powerful ministries.

The MDC says it will not participate in a unity government until ZANU-PF agrees to share real power and the human right abuses stop. ZANU-PF officials have indicated that Mr. Mugabe is prepared to form a government on his own if the MDC refuses to join.