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Bulawayo members release without appearing in court
Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA)
February 15, 2007

The 174 members arrested in Bulawayo on Tuesday were finally released at 5 pm without appearing in court.

Police ran out of delaying tactics when lawyers made ready a High Court application. The members were arrested on 13 February as they conducted a peaceful Valentines Day protest. As members were arrest in one protest another sprung up elsewhere - police officers confirmed arresting people at five different locations in the city where protests had sprung up.

Late yesterday, it had been understood that only seven would be charged under the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act and that the rest would be released, Police made an about turn and only released mothers with babies and minors, leaving 141 in custody for a second night.

Today as lawyers attended prepared to go to Court, the investigating officers indicated they had had 'orders' to charge everyone and take them to court. This meant preparing warned and cautioned statements from everyone. This process of course meant the 48-hour deadline, up at midday, was exceeded by several hours.

Finally at 5 pm today, the group was finally released at 5pm - five hours after their 48-hour deadline had passed. The Prosecutor advised Law and Order officers to proceed by way of summons. Another factor is that once again no police officer is willing to write the necessary affidavit to allow evidence necessary to charge the activist.

However whilst we recognize that it is positive step for them to refuse to be used to convict innocent people, we appeal to police officers to help ' name and shame' the senior police officer who shouted at Riot police not to dialogue with the activists at the scene but gave the order for the peaceful women and men to be beaten. We also deplore the manner in which
those arrested were beaten as they ascended the staircase into the law and order department of Bulawayo Central. Those who had sustained injuries due to beatings on arrest and in custody have been taken to receive medical treatment.

It appears that the group has been charged under Section 46 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) as read with Section 2(v) of the schedule to the Criminal Code - 'employs any means whatsoever which are likely materially to interfere with the ordinary comfort, convenience, peace or quiet of the public or any section of the public, or does any act which is likely to create a nuisance or obstruction'.

This morning, the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) located Magodonga Mahlangu at Sauerstown Police Station. Monitors were dispatched to ensure she was not abducted and their presence ensured she was moved with the rest of the group to Bulawayo Central. She has been released and is also receiving medical treatment for the beatings that she received upon arrest.

The petty nastiness of the Zimbabwe Republic Police was again evident today. Having informed those on support yesterday that the breakfast feeding time had been changed to 5am, volunteers were mobilised to provide food at 5am but were kept waiting until 7am, the normal feeding time. A woman at Queens Park was consistently denied her ARV medication. Reports have also come in that several members were forced to eat the paper placards that they had been carrying during the demonstration - some of these read, 'love can bring a brighter day' and 'From WOZA with love'.

Despite the inability of some officers to choose love over hate, WOZA would like to salute those officers who did treat our members with respect and professionalism and who recognized that WOZA is fighting for a better future for ALL Zimbabweans.

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