RFI interview

Zimbabwean gay activists assaulted in prison, says lawyer

Police are seeking to charge the two activists with insulting President Robert Mugabe.
Police are seeking to charge the two activists with insulting President Robert Mugabe. Reuters

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, says Ellen Chademana and Ignatius Muhambi limped in the courtroom after state agents used glass bottles to injure their kneecaps." > The lawyer of two gay activists detained last week in Zimbabwe claims that his clients were assaulted by police before appearing in court in Harare on Wednesday. Dzimbabwe Chimbga, who is with Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, says Ellen Chademana and Ignatius Muhambi limped in the courtroom after state agents used glass bottles to injure their kneecaps.

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“All I can say from my analysis as a legal practitioner is that there is definitely no justification for this kind of behaviour from the police,” Chimbga told RFI.

Dzimbabwe Chimbga of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights

The conduct is consistent with “pure harassment” by agents of a government that has stated that there is no place for gays and lesbians in Zimbabwe, Chimbga claims.

Chademana and Muhambi, both of whom work for Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe or GALZ, were arrested at their offices on 21 May.

Police claim to have found pornographic materials on the premises, as well as a letter criticising President Robert Mugabe’s government.

Under Zimbabwe’s Censorship Act, any person found in possession of indecent or prohibited materials is liable for a fine or one year’s imprisonment.

Police are seeking to use the materials they claim to have found to charge Chademana and Muhambi with “insulting the president”, according to Chimbga.

The lawyer, who says he has not yet been allowed to see the documents in question, sees the charge as an additional infringement on his clients’ human rights.

“There is no place for people to be arrested in a democratic society when they express their views,” he argues.

“We strongly believe that [gay] people are entitled to their human rights, which include the right to associate with whoever they want.”

Chademana and Muhambi's application for bail continues in Harare on Thursday.

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