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21 Apr 2003 08:35
A member of Zimbabwe’s opposition has died as a result of police torture, according to the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Tonderai Machiridza (32) died after six days in police custody, according to the MDC, which issued photographs of the unconscious Machiridza being carried to hospital.
Armed police took him from his home in Chitungwiza, on April 13. Three other MDC members were also arrested in Chitungwiza that day, accused of having taken a pair of handcuffs from a police officer during the national strike organised by the opposition party on March 18 and 19.
The four were allegedly assaulted by police using truncheons, handcuffs and booted feet.
Machiridza was bleeding and complained of a severe headache before he fell unconscious, said witnesses.
Two others in his group suffered a broken arm and a broken leg, according to the MDC.
Last Wednesday, a court investigation at his hospital bed resulted in an order that Machiridza should be released to receive proper medical attention. The court also ordered an investigation into the allegations of torture.
Machiridza died on Friday, the 23rd anniversary of Zimbabwe’s independence.
“The fact that he died on our Independence Day is symbolic of the death of all our freedoms and our rights,” said an MDC spokesperson, Paul Themba Nyathi.
The MDC claims that 600 of its supporters have been tortured in police custody this year. At least four MDC members of parliament say they were tortured by police inflicting electric shocks. Independent medical examinations have confirmed injuries consistent with their accounts.
Reports of the death highlighted the grim mood over the Easter holiday, in which Zimbabweans suffered food and fuel shortages. Inflation has hit 228% and unemployment 70%, pushing four-fifths of the population below the poverty line.
Roman Catholic bishops issued an Easter letter denouncing Robert Mugabe’s government for committing gross human rights abuses while the population goes hungry. - Guardian Unlimited Â
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