By Violet Gonda
26 May 2010
A lawyer representing the two employees arrested Friday from the group Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe, said his clients have been beaten and tortured in custody as part of an orchestrated attempt to target homosexuals, and to try and extract information.
David Hofisi told SW Radio Africa: “Our clients have complained of beatings and torture yesterday. They were beaten on the knees using coca cola bottles and forced into sitting positions without chairs.”
The lawyer said the police were trying to extract information from them relating to the membership of the gay rights group; “They also wanted to know where these members live and to know their partners.”
GALZ administrator Ellen Chademana and accountant Ignatius Muhambi, were arrested last Friday on charges of ‘insulting the office of the President’ and for allegedly possessing ‘pornographic material’. They are still in police custody.
Their lawyer said the police had also wanted to charge them for ‘possessing dangerous drugs’ but that charge has been removed because they have not shown any evidence.
On Wednesday the defence team applied for an urgent High Court application to assess whether their clients’ detention is still lawful, as the police have not produced a warrant of further detention. They have also applied for bail in the magistrates court. Both matters are expected to be heard on Thursday.
But on Wednesday the harassment continued, as police raided the house of the GALZ director Chesterfield Samba.
A partner organisation of the group, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, said Samba was not at home during the latest raid by the police but that the police went ahead and searched the house and confiscated his ‘birth certificate, passport, magazines and business cards’. Family members said the police wanted to know his whereabouts and when he would return.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum said: “The Forum condemns this conduct by the police in the strongest terms. The conduct of the police is unwarranted and is testament of the levels of intolerance within the police force and our government. Further the Forum questions the independence of the police in executing what clearly are political instructions against the gay and lesbian community in Zimbabwe.”
“The Forum reiterates its calls to all civil society organisations to stand in support of GALZ as fellow comrades in the struggle for human rights, being mindful of the fact that such repression can easily happen to any organisation fighting impunity in this country.”