Zimbabwe activists accused of lying about torture, face jail

The women already faced charges of contravening Zimbabwe’s coronavirus lockdown. On Friday new charges accused them of making false statements to police “alleging that they had been unlawfully detained or kidnapped by some unknown people who claimed to be police officers.” The women are also accused of intending to incite violence with their statements.

Prosecutor Charles Muchemwa opposed bail, asserting that the trio would flee with the help of foreign embassies before the case is concluded.

Magistrate Bianca Makwande said she will rule on the bail application on Monday, meaning the women will spend the weekend in remand prison.

The women’s lawyer, Alec Muchadehama, described them as “victims who are being turned into villains.” He argued that their arrest was an attempt to “cover up” the abduction.

The women alleged their abductors took them from a police station in May after they were arrested for organizing an anti-government protest.

The women were missing for nearly 48 hours before being released. While they were treated in a hospital for their injuries, they were charged with contravening lockdown regulations by participating in the protest.

Political tensions have been high in Zimbabwe, where an economic crisis highlighted by inflation of above 700% is stoking fresh anti-government sentiment.

Home Affairs Minister Kazembe Kazembe told reporters on Wednesday that the alleged abductions had been fabricated and were part of a wider plot to destabilize President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.

The minister dismissed “rumors” of an impending coup, saying the government “is stable and peaceful internally.”

Flanked by military and police commanders, Kazembe accused political rivals, local and foreign Christian preachers and foreign embassies of trying to stir up dissent.

Speaking at a ruling party meeting the same day, the president also spoke of a plot against his government which “culminated in the purported abductions.”

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