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Opposition Harrassment Reported Continuing in Zimbabwe - 2002-02-17


Political and human rights groups in Zimbabwe say that harassment of opposition supporters is continuing. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change says that one of its parliament members has been beaten by police, and church officials say police have arrested four priests for holding a prayer vigil.

Lawyers acting for the Movement for Democratic Change member of parliament, Munyaradzi Gwisai, say he was one of five people who were beaten up at a police station in Harare, the capital. They say the five had complained about unsanitary and overcrowded conditions in the police cells.

The lawyers say the beatings were so severe that the victims needed emergency medical treatment. There has been no comment from the police.

The five were among more than a dozen people arrested on Friday when they took part in a march through Harare to call for the introduction of a new national constitution that would limit the powers of the president.

Lawyers say they have been told by police that the group is to be charged under the new Public Order Act for holding an illegal political meeting.

The law gives authorities wide-ranging powers to ban political gatherings. Offenders face up to five years in jail.

Church spokesmen say four priests and six lay clergy who were arrested in Bulawayo for holding a vigil for peace are also to be charged under the Public Order Act for holding an illegal gathering.

The church spokesmen say police forced their way into a church where the prayer meeting was being held and arrested a priest they say had organized the prayer meeting.

The others were arrested when they prayed outside the police station where the priest was being held.

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