U.S. concerned about Zimbabwe political arrests

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 21, 2011 2:52 PM
U.S. concerned about Zimbabwe political arrests

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Thursday warned Zimbabwe it was monitoring a string of recent politically motivated arrests in the country and demanded Harare hold accountable anyone found to have tortured detainees.

"The United States is concerned about recent arrests in Zimbabwe targeting political and civil society activists," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in a statement.

Crowley cited the February 19 arrest of 46 political activists accused of plotting anti-government protests similar to those that toppled leaders in Egypt and Tunisia, as well as other recent arrests.

"In some of those incidents, activists claimed to have been tortured," Crowley said.

"We call on the government to provide medical attention for those who need it and, if torture occurred, to take immediate action to hold the perpetrators accountable."

The activists' attorney said they were charged with treason for discussing protests against Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, who has held power for 31 years. Defense lawyers have said the accused were in an academic debate on African politics when police arrested them. No trial date has been set.

Those held include trade unionists, student leaders and Munyaradzi Gwisai, who heads a small but radical pressure group, the International Socialist Organization.

The United States has expressed alarm at a spate of violence in Zimbabwe and blamed Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF for the attacks, which are heightening tensions ahead of possible elections this year.

(Reporting by Andrew Quinn; editing by Todd Eastham)