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Investigators Visit Zambia Soldiers

November 10, 1997

LUSAKA, Zambia (AP) _ Some of the soldiers arrested after a failed coup last month say they are being starved and beaten in jail and denied legal and medical aid, human rights investigators said Monday.

The investigators were allowed to interview a few of the men late Sunday after twice being denied access, said Judge Lombe Chibesakunda, head of the state-appointed Human Rights Commission.

The soldiers in Lusaka’s central Chinbokaila Prison were jailed under a state of emergency declared a day after the unsuccessful effort to oust President Frederick Chiluba, who has run the southern African nation since 1991.

Two of the detainees, identified in a statement as Maj. Berrington Mukoma and Sgt. Norman Tembo, complained they have been tortured and starved and prevented from getting legal advice and medical assistance.

Chibesakunda said the commission reminded prison authorities that Zambia was a signatory to United Nations provisions for ``minimum standards″ allowing prisoner visits and protection from abuse.

The London-based human rights organization Amnesty International accuses the government of torturing 34 detainees suspected of involvement in the revolt. The men were subjected to beatings, electric shocks and cigarette burns, it said.

The prisoners include junior military officers who overran the state broadcast center on Oct. 28 and claimed to have driven Chiluba from office. They were arrested after loyalist troops shot their way into the broadcast center, and swiftly put down the coup attempt.

The only politician arrested was Dean Mung’omba, a former banker and Finance Ministry official in Chiluba’s government. He heads the small Zambia Democratic Congress, one of seven groups in an opposition alliance headed by former President Kenneth Kaunda. Mung’omba has denied any links with the mutineers.

Several suspects were still being held Monday at the main police headquarters, where Amnesty said most of the torture was carried out.

Kaunda’s alliance has accused the government of using the state of emergency, which will last three months, to crush its political opponents.

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