Zimbabwe Human Rights Officials Arrested
HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) _ The chairman of a Roman Catholic human rights group and its director, who was freed from detention on spy charges a day earlier, were taken from their offices Thursday by police, a church official said.
Plainclothes police came for Mike Auret, the chairman, and Nicholas Ndebele at the Harare headquarters of the Commission for Justice and Peace, said the Rev. Patrick Moloney, a priest working at the commission.
Auret was able to speak by telephone with The Associated Press from his office while the police were present. ″I believe I shall be detained,″ he said. ″I’ve been questioned here and am being taken to my home in Chinhoyi,″ about 60 miles from Harare.
Auret’s wife, Di, said in a telephone interview: ″Mike has spent his entire life working for the good of this country, and if that counts for nothing, then I don’t believe Zimbabwe stands a chance.″
The official government spokesman was not at his home or office for comment.
Police detained Ndebele on May 22, claiming he had spied for a foreign power they did not identify.
He appeared before High Court Judge Fergus Blackie on Wednesday to challenge the detention. Reporters and spectators, who included nuns and priests, were ordered out of the courtroom after the judge, on the government’s order, invoked a gag law for the first time.
The Courts and Adjudicating Authorities Publicity Act, passed in February, empowers the government to ban publicity in any trial.
Legal sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the judge freed Ndebele ″but he was telephoned by police Thursday and told to wait at the justice and peace commission offices while they came to fetch him.″
Amnesty International, the human rights organization based in London, said in a statement last week it believed Ndebele was ″being held solely on account of his activities with the commission in documenting abuses of human rights by the Zimbabwean government.″
The commission has angered Prime Minister Robert Mugabe with reports of alleged atrocities by soldiers against members of the minority Ndebele tribe in Matabeleland. The southern province is the stronghold of Mugabe’s political rival, Joshua Nkomo.
Home Minister Enos Nkala claimed in May that Amnesty International had been approaching rebels for information on Zimbabwe’s security situation, and also said it had ″infiltrated″ churches.