According to multiple news reports, the two Zimbabwean LGBT activists who were arrested following a police raid on the headquarters of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) were released on bail today after having been held and tortured for six days on charges of possessing “pornographic material” and “insulting the office of the President.”
SW Radio Africa, an Zimbabwean exile shortwave station broadcasting from London, reports that GALZ administrator Ellen Chademana and accountant Ignatius Muhambi were tortured while in police custody:
David Hofisi told SW Radio Africa: “Our clients have complained of beatings and torture yesterday. They were beaten on the knees using coca cola bottles and forced into sitting positions without chairs.”
The lawyer said the police were trying to extract information from them relating to the membership of the gay rights group; “They also wanted to know where these members live and to know their partners.”
Hofisi also told SW Radio Africa, “We are working with our clients so that they can be medically examined so that we can pursue an action against the people who were responsible for the beatings and torture.”
Hofisi said that the police wanted to charge them with “possessing dangerous drugs,” but that charge was dropped for lack of evidence.
Radio VOP, another Zimbabwean exile shortwave station broadcasting from Madagascar, reports that Chademana and Muhambi were ordered to surrender their passports, and were prohibited from traveling for more than 40 kilometres outside Harare.
Meanwhile, SW Radio Africa also reports that police Wednesday raided the home of GALZ director Chesterfield Samba. Samba was not at home, but police confiscated his “birth certificate, passport, magazines and business cards.” This development appears to signal a widening police sweep of the country’s LGBT advocates. Sodomy is illegal in Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe denounced gays as “worse than dogs and pigs.”
Chademana and Muhambi were released on US$200 bail and will go on trial on June 10. It’s unclear what penalties they will face with these charges.