HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) – The Zimbabwe Supreme Court bailed three young female opposition activists on Friday who alleged they were tortured and sexually assaulted by state agents, but were subsequently arrested for allegedly lying about the ordeal. They can be sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The women, all members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party, were detained for more than two weeks after a lower court refused bail and said they could flee before the case was closed.
They appealed. Judge Davison Foroma ordered the activists to hand in their passports and report to the police three times a week as part of the bail conditions.
Nor can they “directly or otherwise communicate with any public or private media, including social media, related to the matter” until the case is over, the judge said.
They face imprisonment or a fine after being charged with making false statements to the police “for claiming they had been wrongfully arrested or kidnapped by unknown people claiming to be police officers”. The women have also been accused of inciting violence with their statements.
Political tensions are high in Zimbabwe, where inflation above 750% is fueling sentiment against the government.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Police Minister Kazembe Kazembe have alleged that the three women made up the story of their kidnappings as part of a wider plot to destabilize the government.
The women have also been accused of violating Zimbabwe’s blocking of the coronavirus for organizing an anti-government meeting.
The women claim that after being arrested for hosting the meeting in May, police allowed them to be taken from the police station by unidentified men who assaulted and sexually assaulted them. The women went missing for nearly 48 hours before being dropped off by a roadside about 90 kilometers (56 miles) northeast of the capital, Harare.
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