Cleveland,Ohio -- Monday, April 23, 2007
Zimbabwe women say protesters were stripped, jailed
Harare, Zimbabwe - Women arrested at a protest organized by a pro-democracy group were stripped of their clothes and jailed naked for hours, the group said Sunday, accusing police of violating Zimbabwe's traditional moral values.
Eighty-two members of the Women of Zimbabwe Arise group were arrested in Bulawayo at the protest Thursday against power failures. Police said it was an illegal political demonstration.
Of those, 18 were stripped and jailed "the whole day in a state of undress," the group said Sunday.
"When two members of a support team attempted to bring food, they too were arrested," it said.
The group included mostly mothers, who in the past have clanged empty pots and pans on the streets to protest food shortages and sometimes hand out roses to make a political point.
The group said one 18-year-old supporter was beaten across the kidneys by police who later drove her into the bush, a common scare tactic, according to the women's group leader, Jenni Williams.
The teen, Clarah Makoni, was forced to crawl under an electric fence and run through scrubland to the nearest road, her clothes torn and covered with dirt and vomit.
She was picked up by a passing motorist and treated for shock and vomiting spasms, Williams said.
Police in Bulawayo were not available for comment.
The human rights organization Amnesty International on Friday said African leaders failed to pressure Zimbabwe to observe human-rights standards enshrined in declarations by both the continentwide African Union and the United Nations.
Police said government opponents were responsible for a gasoline bombing Saturday in a neighborhood that is home to the families of police - the 11th attack authorities have blamed on militants opposed to President Robert Mugabe's rule.
Police spokesman Andrew Phiri said there were no injuries.
"Such bombings show that thugs and people bent on causing mayhem in the country are at work. We will not let people engage in acts of terrorism," the state Sunday Mail, a government mouthpiece, quoted him as saying.
The government has clamped down on critics, including leaders of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change who were arrested and badly beaten last month for trying to attend an unauthorized meeting.