U.S. Men Say Zimbabwe Lineup Faked
Apr. 23, 1999
HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) _ Three Americans arrested on weapons charges say Zimbabwe police kept their alleged torturers out of a court-ordered lineup, their lawyer said today.
Attorney Jeremy Callow said none of the 20 men in the lineup April 16 were involved in the alleged torture of John Lamonte Dixon, 39, Gary George Blanchard, 34, and Joseph Wendell Pettijohn, 35, after their March 7 arrest with weapons at Harare's main airport.
As a result, ``no identifications took place,'' Callow told Harare magistrate Shelton Jura.
He said defense lawyers were calling on police to make arrangements for a genuine lineup assembled from officers involved in the interrogation of the Americans.
The three Indianapolis men, who say they are missionaries for the Indiana-based Harvestfield Ministries assigned to church work in Congo and Zimbabwe, allege they were were beaten on the soles of their feet, assaulted and subjected to electric shocks and near-suffocation torture for six days after their arrest.
Independent doctors confirmed the men bore the physical effects of torture. Callow said the identification of the alleged perpetrators was needed to make a formal complaint through judicial channels and seek action against them.
The Americans admit possessing a stash of weapons, including pump-action shotguns, rifles, telescopic sights and an array of handguns and silencers.
They deny allegations they planned espionage, sabotage and terrorist attacks in Congo and Zimbabwe and insist the guns were for self-defense, hunting and were fired for fun.
Zimbabwe claims they spied on Congolese forces and their allies, including Zimbabwe troops, fighting against rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda in the eight-month Congo civil war.
Jura set another court date for May 7.
Callow said he sought a hearing in the Supreme Court, the nation's highest court, demanding an easing of harsh treatment the Americans are receiving in Harare's Chikurubi maximum security prison. No date has been set for that hearing.
Last week, they were no longer forced to sleep naked, shackled in leg irons, and were granted exercise rights for the first time, Callow said.
But they still were being held in solitary confinement in small windowless cells under continuous electric lighting.
Callow said the men were allowed reading and writing materials but were prevented from speaking to each other or other prison inmates.
The Americans face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment on weapons possession charges alone.