JOHANNESBURG – Zimbabwe police have rejected claims of torture made by suspects arrested in connection with an alleged coup plot, and say they are confident of making more arrests soon.
Police have also called on former opposition MP Roy Bennett to hand himself over f
or questioning in relation to their ongoing investigations into an arms cache, discovered a week ago in Mutare, 260 km east of the capital, Harare, which they claim is linked a plot to overthrow the government.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have rejected accusations by police that they were part of a plan to topple the government by violent means. Analyst Chris Maroleng, of the South African-based Institute for Security Studies, said the arrests might be an attempt to destabilise the MDC faction led by Morgan Tsvangirai, ahead of its congress next weekend.
Senior Assistant Commissioner Ronald Muderedzwa told IRIN on Monday that the police were hoping to conclude their investigations by the end of this week.
He commented that “so far, 11 people have been arrested, but if the investigations lead us into new avenues we will arrest more” individuals. Bennett has allegedly been implicated by those currently under arrest.
“We would like to find Bennett – we have a few questions we would like to put to him,” said Muderedzwa, adding that Bennett’s whereabouts were unknown, and “we don’t know whether he is still in the country or not, but we’re appealing for him to come forward”.
Regarding the claims that former Rhodesian army soldier Mike Peter Hitschmann and his co-accused, including a number of top MDC officials and former policemen, had been tortured while in police custody, Muderedzwa said, “Those allegations are not true – of course, when someone is arrested allegations (of torture) are put across, but that is not true.”
Zimbabwean newspapers reported that Hitschmann was a
licensed arms dealer and a hunter, and therefore entitled to have the weapons discovered by the police, but Muderedzwa said he could not comment on the claim.
The accused appeared in court on Saturday and have been remanded in custody. According to Muderedzwa, they are to reappear on Wednesday either for a bail hearing or for a further remand while investigations continue. — IRIN