16 members still in custody in Masvingo – have been beaten

The 16 members, seven women and nine men, arrested in Masvingo on Tuesday for playing netball and football remain in custody at Masvingo Central Police Station. They still have not been charged. There is deep concern for their well being as members taking food to them last night reported that police had beaten them, one by one, yesterday afternoon. The extent of their injuries is not clear.

Police are apparently still trying to force them to pay admission of guilt fines although they have committed no crime and have not been charged with anything.

Lawyers are now considering filing an urgent high court application for their immediate release as police are apparently refusing to take them to court today and the 48-hours that they are allowed to be held will soon be up.

The group has now spent two nights in custody. Also in custody is the soccer ball, although the netball evaded arrest.

It is still not clear why they were arrested in the first place although it is obvious that it is part of the ongoing campaign of police harassment of human rights defenders in the country.

It is bitterly cold in Masvingo at present and as the group was playing sports at the time, many are not wearing warm clothing. Police have not allowed extra clothing to be brought in to those in custody.

The group had been engaged in their game at Macheke Stadium yesterday afternoon when two members of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) approached them and questioned one of the members. They then took him away. Shortly afterwards they came back and arrested the rest of the group.

Whilst over 300 members demonstrated in Mutare on Monday without incident (see story below), there have been no recent protests in Masvingo.

Please continue to ring Masvingo Central Police Station on +263 39 62221 to protest the continued detention of the group and that police stop the harassment and beatings of human rights defenders in Zimbabwe.