Labour activist Gwisai and 45 others languish in police custody as artists freed on summons

gwisaiPolice in Harare, on Saturday 19 February 2011 arrested labour activist Munyaradzi Gwisai (pictured) and 45 other social and human rights activists at a venue in Harare.

At the time of the arrest the labour activist and other social and human rights activists, who include Hopewell Gumbo were participating in an academic discussion.

At least 35 police officers suspected to be from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Law and Order section and some members of the dreaded Central Intelligence Organisation (CIOs) cast an indiscriminate dragnet at the venue where the academic discussion was being held.

On Saturday 19 February 2011, efforts by lawyers to gain access to the detainees were fruitless. Lawyers were totally denied access by senior police officers and some unidentified men who without any explanation and just cause ruthlessly and rudely chased away the lawyers at about 20:00 hours. Subsequent efforts to gain access to their clients so as to ascertain the medical requirements of the 46 were also met with resistance by the unidentified men in civilian clothes.

On Sunday 20 February 2011 fresh attempts by lawyers to gain access to their clients were met with stiff resistance and verbal insults.

When lawyers finally managed to gain access to their 46 clients for about two hours they were advised upon interviewing some of the detainees that at least seven of them had been tortured by the unidentified men who during the said torture sessions were questioning detainees about the meeting and the discussions.

Lawyers have since been advised that their clients could possibly be charged with contravening section 22 (2) (a) (i) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, that is attempting to overthrow the government by unconstitutional means.

By Monday 21 February 2011, lawyers had not yet been granted access to the detainees as they were advised that the police were still screening the detainees to determine the nature of their participation in the meeting.

Meanwhile, 10 Rooftop artists who were arrested on Friday 18 February 2011 in Centenary, Mashonaland Central Province were released on summons. Their arrest and detention followed complaints filed by some ZANU PF supporters after they staged a play entitled Rituals which focuses on national healing and other related transitional justice issues.

The artists were detained overnight at Centenary police station on Friday 18 February 2011 and transferred on Saturday 19 February 2011 to Bindura Police Station. The police made an entry in the Detention Book that they were being charged with violating Section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. The artists were never formally charged by the police however. They were eventually released later on Saturday without being formally charged and the police indicated that they would proceed by way of summons.

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