Twelve visibly wounded suspects accused of killing a police inspector have appeared in a Zimbabwe court, and their lawyer said they were tortured repeatedly by police in jail.
The group shuffled into the courthouse, limping and handcuffed in pairs.
Eight men and four women appeared with deep lacerations and welts on their legs and arms. They lifted their clothing to show the wounds. Several had swollen faces and bloodshot eyes.
Suspect Tungamirai Madzokere testified in a statement that he had suffered internal injuries in beatings that police recorded on video cameras.
Defence lawyer Charles Kwaramba said that the suspects, members of prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s former opposition party, were detained in a police crackdown in a western Harare township since the killing on Sunday.
He said members of the group were beaten with rifle butts and were punched and kicked all over their bodies.
Police took turns assaulting them during nights in jail, sometimes jumping on and twisting their handcuffed wrists, he said.
Mr Kwaramba also said police denied the suspects medical attention and free access to their lawyers.
Presiding Harare magistrate Shane Kubonera ruled that the group remain in custody and reappear in court June 17.
Mr Kubonera also ordered that they receive immediate medical attention and that investigations into the torture allegations be carried out by the office of attorney general Johannes Tomana, the top state law officer.
Amid mounting tensions ahead of calls for elections this year, Mr Tsvangirai’s party denied involvement in the death outside a township bar. Police vowed they would avenge their colleague’s death and hunt down “traitors” in the former opposition.
Human rights groups have long said that police and military loyal to President Robert Mugabe have committed human rights abuses and infringed on civil rights of those who do not support the long-time ruler.
Police had arrested 25 suspects in the murder of Inspector Petros Mutedza, 45, outside a bar in the Glen View township. Police released 13 of the suspects for lack of evidence earlier yesterday.
Prosecutor Edmore Nyazamba said Mr Mutedza died from injuries received in a mob assault in the township, a stronghold of Mr Tsvangirai’s party, after the officer tried to stop an unauthorised political gathering where youths were wearing party t-shirts.