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70 Opposition Supporters Detained in Zimbabwe - 2003-03-04


In Zimbabwe, police have detained at least 70 supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. The suspects are accused of taking two guns from policemen at a rally on Sunday.

Opposition party officials openly acknowledge that the two policemen, who were not in uniform, were disarmed by members of the Movement for Democratic Change. The officials say that, for security reasons, it is normal procedure at all party rallies to disarm those carrying weapons. At the end of the rally, the weapons - and those who were carrying them - are then handed over to police.

However at the end of Sunday's rally, party officials say the two firearms taken were not handed over. Police then moved in and arrested more than 70 people.

Though police say one of the weapons has since been recovered, the other one has still not been found. MDC officials say their efforts to find it have been unsuccessful.

Simbarashe Muzenda, a lawyer for those detained, says they are due to appear in court Wednesday and will be charged with public violence under Zimbabwe's Public Order and Security Act.

Mr. Muzenda could not give the exact number of those in police custody as he says more people who were at the rally are being arrested every day.

In another incident that took place on Sunday, 26 MDC supporters were arrested near President Robert Mugabe's official residence. They were accused of insulting soldiers on guard duty outside the residence, a charge they deny. The 26 were released on the same day, but not before, they say, being beaten up by the soldiers and fined by the police.