TWENTY-NINE out of the 300 flood victims, who were rounded up by police and arrested for allegedly torching two police vehicles last weekend as they resisted their forced removal from Chingwizi without compensation, yesterday appeared at the Chiredzi Magistrates’ Court.
Chiredzi resident magistrate Tawengwa Chibande is set to rule on an application made by the villagers’ lawyers for refusal of further remand today. The other villagers were released after being allegedly assaulted to extract information and coerced to implicate the 29 that appeared in court yesterday.
Phillip Shumba led a team of lawyers from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights comprising Blessing Nyamaropa, Collin Maboke and Martin Mureri.
Shumba said the 29, who appeared in court had been screened and they had applied for refusal to further remand because their constitutional rights had been violated through assaults to force false confessions.
“Their constitutional rights were infringed on because they were assaulted in custody and arrested randomly,” he said.
“They were also overcrowded in the open air detention facility they are being held in.”
Shumba said it was inhumane for the police to fence suspects in the open exposing them to the cold winter nights.
However, the main State witness Detective Assistant Inspector Victor Chinono denied that the villagers were assaulted. He said the 29 were implicated by their fellow detainees.
About 80 villagers were arrested on Saturday and the figure dramatically ballooned to 300 the following day after more were picked up and detained at Triangle Police Station.
Most villagers have deserted the camp and sought refuge with relatives while others are believed to be hiding in the bush following the joint police and army raid of the holding camp.
The camp has been cordoned off and cut off from the outside world as the only cellphone booster in the area owned by mobile network giant Econet is not working.
Villagers believe that it was deliberately switched off to prevent them from contacting the media and rights groups.
But an Econet spokesman denied the allegations saying the booster had experienced a technical fault and their engineers were working flat out to restore normal service.