Officials of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change gave reporters a tour Thursday of their Harare offices that police raided the day before, arresting more than 60 officials and staff, most of whom who remained jailed 24 hours later.
Officials of the MDC faction led by party founder Morgan Tsvangirai said police seized computers and documents and caused damage estimated at US$200,000 in the raid, staged Wednesday morning just before Tsvangirai was to speak to reporters.
Authorities arrested more than 60 MDC officials, staff and supporters as well as some journalists who had shown up for the news conference, faction officials said.
Faction Secretary General Tendai Biti deplored what he said was escalating official violence against the opposition. He rejected police accusations that the opposition had been stockpiling ammunition and was behind a recent string of firebombings.
Correspondent Irwin Chifera of VOA's Studio 7 For Zimbabwe reported from Harare.
Meanwhile, a lawyer representing MDC officials, staff and activists arrested in the crackdown said some of them had been tortured while being held by police.
Of the more than 60 activists held by police, only nine appeared in magistrate court, Thursday. The nine were charged with attempted murder, firebombing police stations and other facilities, and the illegal possession of explosives.
MDC lawyers filed an urgent high court application seeking relief for their clients and a hearing was set for Friday. The lawyers said police have denied them access to their clients, whom they say have also been deprived of food and medical care.
Intelligence sources said the crackdown was ordered by President Robert Mugabe. Security sources said the president's office had ordered the Central Intelligence Organization to punish opposition members under "Operation Bash Them."
Lawyer Alec Muchadehama said all of the nine who appeared in court today were remanded back into police custody despite their serious injuries.
The human rights group Amnesty International expressed outrage about Wednesday’s arrest of Tsvangirai and other MDC officials and staff.
Amnesty Zimbabwe country specialist Rowley Brucken told VOA reporter Howard Lesser that Harare police must end what his group called “the brutal harassment, torture, and intimidation of opposition activists.”
More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...