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  • Strikes and Protests 2007- Save Zimbabwe Campaign

  • Statement condemns harassment and physical abuse by Mugabe government
    Stephen Kaufman, USINFO
    March 13, 2007

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    Washington -- The Bush administration is calling for the "immediate and unconditional release" of political opposition leaders in Zimbabwe and urging the government of President Robert Mugabe to allow its citizens the right to express their views without fear of violence or intimidation.

    In a March 13 statement, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, currently traveling with President Bush in Latin America, described the government's March 11 attack on a prayer meeting attended by opposition leaders as "brutal."

    She also repeated that the United States holds Mugabe "responsible for the safety and well-being of those in custody," leaders such as Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara from the Movement for Democratic Change, and National Constitutional Assembly leader Lovemore Madhuku.

    Rice said the recent events again have demonstrated to the international community that Mugabe's regime is "ruthless and repressive and creates only suffering for the people of Zimbabwe," and urged it to "allow all Zimbabweans to freely express their views without being subject to violence and intimidation."

    In Washington, State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said the attack on the prayer meeting and subsequent detentions show "the lengths to which [the Mugabe government] will go to try and keep people from being able to participate in the political process."

    "No one should face harassment, intimidation and, as it increasingly appears, beatings and physical abuse, simply for trying to get together and meet and freely express their views and freely talk about political issues," he said.

    Casey said there are also reports of individuals "not being provided with medical care, and possibly suffering serious injuries that no one's been able to account for," and that those detained have not been allowed access to legal counsel as required under Zimbabwean law.

    U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell, as well as some European Union (EU) ambassadors attended courtroom hearings in Harare March 13 where some of the opposition members were brought, reportedly to face charges of incitement to violence. Casey said the ambassador tried to meet with those in detention to check on their condition, but "was not permitted to visit them."

    "We certainly are concerned. We're concerned that the police and the government as a whole hadn't responded to a number of court orders on this issue. We're concerned in the first place that these individuals had been detained," Casey said.

    The United States will be discussing its concerns with EU countries, as well as other African nations "to talk about what else we might be able to do to support some positive change in Zimbabwe," he added.

    "As we approach the beginnings of an electoral campaign in Zimbabwe, as well, we certainly want to see more openness and see a dialogue go on between all the elements of Zimbabwean society. What we don't want to see is an increase in repressive behavior."

    A senior State Department official said Rice's statement reflects "real concerns raised about the condition and the potential safety" of the opposition leaders who have been detained.

    "[W]e wanted to make it abundantly clear to people that we really are treating this seriously and we really do hold Mugabe and the government responsible for what happens to them," the official said.

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