19 June 2009

Zimbabwe: All WOZA Members Finally Released

press release

The seven members arrested in Bulawayo on Wednesday have finally been released on bail of USD 20 each. They have been remanded out of custody to 3rd July and have to report to their nearest police station every Friday. The Magistrate had tried to postpone the matter to Monday 22nd but the defence successfully argued against a postponement. The state then attempted to delay their release by saying that all clerks of the court were in a meeting all afternoon and that therefore their bail could only be paid on Monday. Fortunately Kossam Ncube, the defence lawyer, was able to secure their release by late afternoon. All were beaten prior to being arrested and have needed to seek medical attention for deep tissue bruising.

The four members in Harare have also finally been able to go home having received medical treatment. One woman has a broken finger, whilst another two are on crutches as they are unable to walk unaided. Maria Majoni has to return for further medical treatment for injuries to her ear. All have severe deep tissue bruising.

The four Harare members are required to report directly to the Law and Order Department every Friday. Both groups of activists, in Harare and Bulawayo, are charged under Section 37 1 a of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act – ‘disturbing the peace, security or order of the public’.

It has emerged that the woman with her nine-month old baby that had been arrested with the other four in Harare and then later released had been pulled out of the demonstration by riot police and taken to a room inside Parliament filled with police. They took the baby of her back, placing it on the floor at the side of the room before taking it in turns to beat the mother. She was later taken to Central Police Station where the other WOZA members denied knowing her until she was released.

WOZA is relieved that all activists have finally been released from custody but remains shaken by the brutality they received at the hands of the police. Attempts to hold the activists in Bulawayo hostage until Jenni Williams has been arrested and denying the activists in Harare medical attention as punishment are all the actions of a state that has no interest in changing its behaviour. Police officers like Mundondo in Harare and Moyo in Bulawayo continue to violate the rights of peaceful activists despite the fact that the Global Political Agreement (GPA) signed in September last year promised commitment to human rights and the rule of law. As the world commemorates International Refugee Day tomorrow under the theme – real people, real needs, the real needs of the Zimbabwean people continue to be ignored.

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