By Cris Chinaka HARARE, Reuters
Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was “in bad shape” on Monday after suffering head injuries while in police custody, his lawyer said, and rights groups alleged he and other politicians were tortured.
Police detained Tsvangirai and dozens of other opposition figures on Sunday and shot dead a man while crushing a prayer meeting organized in defiance of a ban on political rallies.
Political tensions, which have been brewing over the soaring cost of living and President Robert Mugabe’s increasingly controversial rule, erupted when riot squads fought opposition youths in the capital for the second time in a month.
A coalition of opposition, church and civic groups called Sunday’s prayer rally to address Zimbabwe’s deepening political and economic crisis. The police ordered the organizers to scrap the meeting amid fears the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was trying to launch a street campaign to oust Mugabe, who it blames for the country’s economic woes.
Tsvangirai’s lawyer Innocent Chagonda told Reuters after a visit to a Harare police station where the MDC leader is being held that he was badly assaulted in detention and was taken to hospital Sunday night.
“He was in bad in shape, he was swollen very badly. He was bandaged on the head. You couldn’t distinguish between the head and the face and he could not see properly,” he said.
“I managed to see him from about 10 meters (33 ft) inside the police holding fence at Borrowdale Police Station. They were being paraded,” Chagonda said.
A spokesman for political pressure group National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) said its chairman, Lovemore Madhuku, suffered a broken arm, and a bad head wound in police custody.
“In addition to the killing, they (those detained) were tortured in custody,” said the organizers of the rally.