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Five Political Opposition Members Released in Zimbabwe - 2002-09-30


In Zimbabwe, five members of the opposition party are out on bail after spending several days in prison on charges of public violence. The men say they were beaten by police while in prison.

The most severely injured member of the opposition was 18-year-old Thomas Spicer, who had to be helped into court by one of his co-accused.

His lawyers say he was singled out for special punishment during his four days of incarceration.

Lawyers for the five said that all of the defendants had been assaulted by members of the law and order section of the Zimbabwe Republic police.

Thomas Spicer's father said he was "incensed" that his son has been tortured in his own country. This is not an isolated incident, he said, thousands of youngsters in Zimbabwe have been abused this way.

Meanwhile, in eastern Zimbabwe, opposition Member of Parliament Roy Bennett remains in jail in the town of Chimanimani. He was arrested Sunday and charged with failing to comply with a government eviction notice to leave his home. Eight other members of the opposition are in police cells with him.

Mr. Bennett's bodyguard, Mike Makwaza, and a South African who was with Mr. Bennett are still missing. They were last seen in the custody of the government's Central Intelligence Organization.

There were many acts of violence and intimidation reported last week in Zimbabwe before local government elections Saturday and Sunday in rural areas. No independent monitors covered the elections.

While the opposition blames government supporters for the violence, the government responds that the opposition is behind most of the violence.

The results of the rural elections should be available Tuesday, but because so many opposition candidates were excluded from the elections, political analysts say the outcome will be big win for the ruling ZANU-PF party.