Legislator Tendai Biti, who is a prominent Harare lawyer, says he witnessed the beating of founding Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) president Morgan Tsvangirai.  Biti spoke from his hospital bed to Peta Thornycroft in Harare.

Tendai Biti was among the first to be detained when he was driving towards the stadium where a prayer rally was to be held last Sunday.

He was arrested and taken with about 30 colleagues to the Machipisa Police Station in Highfield, where he and fellow detainees say they were tortured by police.

He said he saw his friends and colleagues, MDC treasurer Elton Mangoma, who is disabled, and activists Lovemore Madhuku, Grace Kwinjeh, and Sekai Holland being given what he describes as "special treatment."

Biti said the group was singled out for the most brutal beating by five policemen and one woman he described as particularly violent and poorly educated. 

"Then they started beating people randomly, with rubber baton sticks, the first time they hit, I said to Elton, phew, this thing is painful, really painful, just going around hitting randomly, but there was another group of policemen just outside the fence, they had started identifying people.  First they identified was Lovemore Madhuku," he recalled.  "Then this woman said he is the ring leader, so they started hitting him, one woman removed her belt, took the buckle end and started assaulting him in the head ... ka, ka, ka, ka, ka.  Next they identified Grace Kwinjeh, 'oh Grace Kwinjeh you think you are a commander?' and started assaulting her in the face, she screamed once, and they beat her, you know she broke out into those spirits, kushikirwa ... she started talking like a man, it was frightening, you never seen something like that.  So they beat her up, beat her up, beat her up."

Biti said one of the plainclothes men who assaulted the detainees had a baton with a three tailed whip on the end of it.

Biti said when Morgan Tsvangirai joined them he heard the police shouting, "get in, get in", using words in the Shona language that would normally apply to an animal.

"Then they just start hitting him, then they said to him, 'so you are the one who sends in kids to assault policemen,' and then he says in Shona, 'We do not send kids to assault police or anyone, we do not do that.'" 

"Then they started assaulting him, they stopped assaulting everyone else, they assaulted him for anything between 15 to 20 minutes, sustained," he continued, "and all you could hear all you could hear was the sound of the whip.  They shifted into another gear, once they saw Morgan.  He was lying prostrate like a dead person, blood coming out ... he was unconscious."

Biti said that when the assault stopped he and others were forced to carry those who could not walk onto a large police truck and driven to Harare Central Police Station, where they were made to lie down on a road.  There, he said, officials from President Robert Mugabe's office came to ask questions and saw them lying, injured and bleeding, and groaning in agony.

He said later they were forced back onto the truck, and driven to several police stations where they were dropped off in groups.  Biti said that enroute he used sign language to indicate to a taxi driver that Morgan Tsvangirai was being dropped off at the Borrowdale Police Station, about 15 kilometers north of Harare.

The taxi driver then alerted people and the lawyers were informed of Tsvangirai's whereabouts. 

Biti, still in pain from his beating in police custody, said the worst injured was Sekai Holland, an activist in her late 60's.  Both of her ankles were broken and her arm was mutilated.  She was in surgery much of the day.

No charges have been filed against any of those arrested last Sunday.  Doctors say Tsvangirai's injuries are not life threatening and he should be well enough to go home in a couple of days.

The government has accused Tsvangirai of sending some of his youth members to attack the police.  It says opposition youths were also attacking civilians in several townships, accusations denied by the MDC.