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Amnesty International Demands Release of Zimbabwe Activists Jailed in Peaceful March

June 2, 2008
4:38 PM

CONTACT: Amnesty International
Suzanne Trimel, 212-633-4150

Amnesty International Demands Release of Zimbabwe Activists Jailed in Peaceful March
NEW YORK - June 2 - Amnesty International mobilized its global network of activists on Monday on behalf of 14 activists from the Women of Zimbabwe Arise movement who were arrested on May 28 in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, for participating in a peaceful protest and are being held under harsh prison conditions. The human rights organization fears the activists some of whom already have been beaten by police -- are in danger of being tortured.

WOZA leaders Jenni Williams, national coordinator of the organization; Magadonga Mahlangu, a co-leader, and 12 activists were arrested as they marched to the Zambian Embassy to call on the chair of the Southern African Development Community to help bring an end to the violence that has been taking place in Zimbabwe since elections were held on March 29. Some of the WOZA members were beaten by police as they were arrested. All were being charged with 'distributing materials likely to cause a breach of the peace.' Williams has a further charge against her for 'publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the state.'

Amnesty International asked its activists worldwide to call on Zimbabwe's Minister of Justice to immediately release the activists who were detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of association and assembly. Amnesty International also called on the government to ensure that the activists are not tortured or ill-treated and have access to lawyers and their families, in addition to being provided warm clothing, blankets and adequate food and medical attention.

Some WOZA members appeared in court on Friday and others on Saturday. After the individuals were initially granted bail, the state prosecutor then won an appeal against granting them bail and all were remanded in custody. The 13 women are being held at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison and the male WOZA member is being held at Harare Central Remand Prison. Reports indicate that conditions in both of these prisons are deplorable and fall well below international standards. Sufficient blankets and warm clothing have not been provided to the WOZA detainees, which is of particular concern as it is currently winter in Zimbabwe. They are being remanded in custody until June 6 when they will appear in court again.

Though WOZA members have been arrested on dozens of occasions, since the formation of the organization in 2003, the most recent arrests are part of a wider crackdown on human rights defenders, trade unionists, lawyers, journalists, election observers and opposition activists, in the wake of the parliamentary and presidential elections of March 29.


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