Election Resource Centre (ERC) and Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) staff members and volunteers arrested on allegations of attempting to post the general election results have been freed on US$200 bail each.
Bail was granted with stringent reporting conditions which will see them reporting to the police thrice a week.
They will be back in court on September 28 for their routine remand.
The group appeared before Harare magistrate Ngoni Nduna also raising several concerns over the way they were arrested.
The 35 through their lawyer Alec Muchadehama said they were made to lie on their stomachs for over three hours by heavily armed officers and made to do humiliating actions despite their pleas to have their lawyers at the police station.
“The police were heavily armed with Ak47 rifles, truncheons, and other assortment of weapons swooped on the accused and arrested them in a dragnet style.
“That was around 8pm on the 23rd of August 2023. They were made to lie on their stomachs.
“Their cellphones and laptops as well as other gadgets they were using were taken away.
“At the point of taking, none of the accused were advised of the reasons why they were taking them. This is in violation of subsection 60 (i) (a) which requires that an accused must be advised of the reason why they are being arrested at the time of the arrest.
“The accused only came to know of these charges around 15:30 on 24 August when warned and cautioned statements were being recorded from them.
“The third complaint is that the accused were held incommunicado. Upon being taken illegally, the police seized each of the accused persons’ personal cellphones, Asked for the passwords, switched them off, and put them on flight mode before they took them away.
“The accused persons were not able to communicate with their spouses, relatives, legal practitioners, doctors, or anyone else. This is a clear violation of the Constitution which prescribes that an accused person must be able to communicate with the outside world upon arrest. Where they are unable to do so the State must facilitate communication, ” said Muchadehama.
“The police went on to interview the accused in some instances taking videos of the accused persons.
“We visited Harare Central Police station on the 24th of August 2023 and police feigned ignorance regarding the whereabouts of the accused persons.
“We only managed to see the accused around 3 pm yesterday (Thursday).
“The fifth complaint relates to the denial of food by the police. Since their arrest on 23 August up to now, the police have not provided the accused persons food yet it is their duty to do so.
“The sixth complaint is that upon their arrest, whilst the police were searching the place, the accused were made to lie on their stomachs for over three hours. When they were taken to CID HQ and CID law and order, they were not detained in cells. They were made to sleep on the floor without blankets, water, and proper ablution facilities. That kind of treatment is a violation of section 53 of the Constitution which prescribes that no one should be treated in a cruel manner or punishment.
“The following night they were taken to condemned cells. The cells were condemned by the Supreme Court. They are still in the state they were when they were condemned, stinky, no water, and full of bed bugs.
Muchadehama said it was embarrassing that the State had no actual charge for his clients.
“I can submit that the charges as currently framed are really grotesque and scandalous. They are not based on any reasonable suspicion that the accused committed any offence. This was a dragnet arrest.
“As you can see your worship from the charges. There is no complainant. ZEC has not complained. There is no government because it was devolved. Zanu PF has not complained. No any other political party has complained so the police has outdone everyone …What the State is doing is prophesising.
“The accused did nothing to be arrested. The State’s case is weak, especially considering that they are saying it was just an attempt.”
The election monitors further demanded the arrest of Zanu PF’s Patrick Chinamasa for defying the electoral law, a crime they are accused of.
Added Muchadehama: “Patrick Chinamasa specifically announced the results and nothing happened to him. He was not arrested so the police must not apply the law selectively. If other people are allowed to go free the same should be done to the accused.”