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Remaining political prisoners freed in Zimbabwe

The remaining three of 18 political and human rights activists who were re-detained in Zimbabwe last week have all been released on bail. Kisimusi Emmanuel (Chris) Dhlamini, Andrison Shadreck Manyere and Gandi Mudzingwa were freed by the High Court of Zimbabwe on Wednesday. The three men were in hospital, two of them being treated for injuries sustained as a result of torture by state security agents, when they were granted bail. They were among at least 30 victims of enforced disappearances that took place between October and December 2008. Twenty-three of them, including the three men released on Wednesday, were later ‘discovered’ at various police stations in and around Harare on 22 and 23 December. The police, rather than arrest their abductors, unlawfully detained the victims of the enforced disappearances.   Seven people, whom the Movement of Democratic Change (MDC) - Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s faction - claim were also abducted at the same time, have never been found. All the former detainees, except Dhlamini, Manyere and Mudzingwa, were finally released in February and March 2009. After Dhlamini, Manyere and Mudzingwa were ‘discovered’, they were brought to court on criminal charges. Their lawyers argued that as victims of kidnappings they should be treated as complainants, not as accused. They were charged with insurgency, banditry, sabotage and terrorism based on explosions that damaged police premises and a bridge. The charges are widely believed to be fabricated by the state. When the lawyers finally had access to interview them, Dhlamini and Mudzingwa alleged to have been tortured. The magistrate, after several delays, allowed them access to doctors of their choice, who confirmed injuries consistent with torture allegations. After months in detention, the three prisoners were briefly released on bail on 17 April 2009 after the state failed to file a notice to appeal in the required time. However, three days after being released on bail, Mudzingwa and Dhlamini were again placed under armed guard, first by prison guards, and then by police guards.   On 5 May, eighteen of the former detainees, including Mudzingwa, Dhlamini and Manyere, were indicted to appear before the High Court. Fifteen of them were again released on bail the following day. However, Mudzingwa, Dhlamini and Manyere were denied bail reportedly because the charges against them of insurgency, banditry, sabotage or terrorism, were more serious. All three of them were detained in hospitals in Harare under police guard until their release.