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17 MDC Activists Still in Prison Without Trial, 4 Months On
Lance Guma, SW Radio Africa
July 13, 2007

17 political detainees who have been in remand prison since the 26th of March have still not received a trial date from the state. Most of them are in custody on charges of receiving insurgency training in South Africa. The detained, who include Glen View Member of Parliament Paul Madzore, were arrested shortly after the government embarked on a vicious campaign against the opposition four months ago. The MDC says these are trumped up charges and this is nothing more than a ploy to cripple the opposition ahead of the elections.

Defence lawyer Alec Muchadehama said his clients are being treated like bandits and terrorists. He said: "There is no evidence to link the accused persons, this is why they are unable to be tried by the state and the state is simply forgetting them because they know that they are in custody and they want them to suffer like that in a sadistic way."

Rights groups and the opposition have said the political detainees were severely tortured whilst in police custody. This resulted in one of the accused, an MDC National Executive Member, Morgan Komichi being hospitalised in jail. Muchadehama confirmed this saying: "He is still in hospital prison, and today he was unable to attend the remand proceeding because he is still unwell." They were further remanded in custody to 10 August.

Initially, 32 opposition activists were arrested on terrorist charges. 15 people were released after police dropped those charges due to lack of evidence. They had spent more than 60 days in police custody.

17 remain in custody facing various allegations. They have been put into categories in terms of how they are going to be charged. Muchadehama said Ishmael Kauzani is facing allegations of petrol bombing places in and outside Harare. Komichi and Dennis Murira are facing allegations of recruiting and training terrorists, bandits and saboteurs. Phillip Katsande, Shame Wakatama, Phillip Mabika and 11 others, who include MP Paul Madzore, are facing allegations of having undergone military training for purposes of terrorism, banditry and insurgency in South Africa.

The MDC activists totally deny these charges and are challenging the police to prove these allegations in court. The lawyer said: "And this is what the police have been failing to do since the time that they unlawfully arrested these accused persons."

Meanwhile, the defence team is still waiting for the ruling on a bail application appeal made to the High Court. Muchadehama said his clients are very anxious. "They actually ask us what is happening, so we tell them that we are applying for bail, we are asking for a trial date from the state, and so on. But, you see, that is not good enough for a person who is in custody."

Police refuse to comment.

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