Police in Zimbabwe today stormed a local hotel where human rights defenders were attending a media training workshop by Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ).
They arrested two of those at the meeting and brought the meeting to an end.
About 20 participants were in the session, at the Bronte Hotel in Harare, when the police arrived and requested to see the organizers of the meeting. They also insisted on seeing the IDs of participants and took down their names and addresses.
Subsequently two human rights defenders — the GALZ youth coordinator and the training facilitator — were taken to central police station where they were questioned and charged under Section 25 (5) of Public Order Security Act (POSA) before being released.
Section 25(5) is notorious for being selectively applied to target critics of President Robert Mugabe and non-governmental organizations that are deemed “pro-Western.” It states that the “organiser of a public meeting, demonstration or procession who fails to give the police advance notice in accordance with POSA is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine of level 12 [currently US $2,000] or a year’s imprisonment or both.
GALZ, which continues to be a target of state retribution, is yet to release a formal statement.
Police conducted their raid despite the organization’s victory in two court cases against the state in the past two months. In January, GALZ won a case in High Court against police following a raid in which police confiscated computers, materials and publications from GALZ. In February, GALZ Chairperson Martha Tholanah won dismissal of charges that she was running an unregistered organization.
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