Intimidation and violence against activists and students, as Tsvangirai is acquitted of treason

The treason trial of MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai on 15 October, in which he was acquitted of charges of plotting to assassinate Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe was the focus of politically motivated violence in the month of October. Shortly before, during and after the court hearing for the acquittal of the MDC President, acts of intimidation and violence against MDC and NCA activists, as well as university students, increased sharply. Intimidation by state agents and ZANU PF youths caused several men and women to flee from their homes for fear of further assaults.

A large number of MDC supporters gathering outside the High Court to hear the Tsvangirai trial verdict were tear-gassed and assaulted by riot police. Of those who sought medical assistance, several had to be treated at or admitted to hospital. In a related incident, a truck full of Riot Police reportedly dispersed an all-night meeting of NCA members interceding on Tsvangirai’s behalf. A victim claims that they were assaulted with plastic whips, booted feet and open palms.

Eleven NCA demonstrators were arrested during a protest demonstration against the NGO Bill, and were charged under Section 24 of POSA and made to pay Admission of Guilt fines of Z$25 000 each. Three photographers and 49 WOZA (Women of Zimbabwe Arise) women were also arrested for staging a peaceful demonstration outside Parliament and attempting to present a petition against the NGO Bill, the objective of their ten-day walk from Bulawayo.

The Human Rights Forum urges the Government of Zimbabwe to take the necessary preventive steps to forestall political violence, intimidation, discrimination and victimization by state agents and individuals who appear to be acting with impunity, especially as the Parliamentary elections draw nearer.

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