Friday, July 14, 2006

Scores remain behind bars after protests

Zimbabwe's National Constitutional Assembly, a civil society activist organization, said 145 of its members remained in police custody Thursday in Harare, Bulawayo and Mutare following protests on Wednesday demanding a new constitution.

All told, NCA sources said, 411 people were arrested in the three cities. Though there were no arrests at protests in Masvingo and Gweru, spokesman Madock Chivasa said police had ordered the nongovernmental organization's regional chairmen in those cities to report Thursday and Friday in connection with the demonstrations.

Chivasa told Carole Gombakomba of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that NCA members involved in the protests had previously agreed not to pay fines amounting to a guilty plea, but to oblige authorities to arraign them in court where they could contest the charges of assembling in violation of laws put in place by the ruling party.

In Bulawayo, meanwhile, police were said to have arrested 208 members of a local small business group. Vice Secretary Edward Manning of the Bulawayo Upcoming Traders Association said the group sought permission to demonstrate on Wednesday, emphasizing that their demonstration was separate from those staged by the National Constitutional Assembly, but were denied permission. The police raids followed.

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