Maputo — Maputo, 21 (Nov (AIM) - 18 young polling station monitors from the Mozambican opposition party Nova Democracia (ND - New Democracy) have now been detained in the southern province of Gaza for 36 days in what ND regards as a gross violation of the law.
Initially, the 18 were held in small, overcrowded police cells in Guija district. The conditions here were regarded as inhuman, and, according to a report in Thursday's issue of the independent newssheet "Carta de Mocambique", the prisoners were obliged to urinate and defecate on old newspaper or into plastic bags.
Last Sunday, after a team from the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) visited Guija, the 18 were transferred to the prison in the provincial capital, Xai-Xai.
The basis for their arrests is that they were supposedly observing the count at polling stations in Chokwe district, on the day of the general elections (15 October), without being duly accredited, or using forged credentials.
The ND's national election agent, Quiteria Guirrengane, told "Carta de Mocambique", that the charge was senseless, and that all 18 monitors had been duly accredited by the electoral bodies.
This, however, was only after the headquarters of the National Elections Commission (CNE) and its executive body, the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), had intervened. The local electoral bodies had illegally refused to issue them with credentials.
Guirrengane said the 18 picked up their credentials on 14 October, a day before the vote, but even so they were grabbed by the police, under the instructions of the local STAE.
Even in Xai-Xai, the police are refusing to allow anyone to visit them, said Guirrengane. The police claim they are "in quarentine for 60 days". A high ranking judicial source contacted by AIM said this "is a complete aberration". There is no such thing as "quarantine" for prisoners.
Initially, the police also refused to allow them to receive any food from outside the jail. Guirrengane said the police have now relented, and the families can bring them food.