HARARE - Top opposition leaders were assaulted and tortured by police who had broken up a planned Save Zimbabwe prayer meeting in the capital on Sunday, colleagues of the activists said yesterday.
One protester was shot dead by police in Sunday's unrest and scores of others were arrested. Journalists trying to cover the events were also arrested.
The organisers of the prayer meeting - an alliance of opposition, civic, church leaders and student and anti-government groups - said lawyers who visited the detainees yesterday reported that the main opposition party leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, pictured, fainted three times after being beaten by police.
The Save Zimbabwe Campaign said another opposition leader, Lovemore Madhuku, was taken to the main hospital in Harare early yesterday after collapsing from police assaults.
At least four other opposition and civic leaders were beaten and tortured in custody, the campaign said.
"The police thoroughly assaulted leaders of the Save Zimbabwe Campaign while in custody," the alliance said.
The alliance said lawyers were still trying to establish the whereabouts of all those picked up by police, saying some were denied food or legal advice.
No comment was immediately available from the police yesterday.
Opponents of President Robert Mugabe blame him for acute food shortages, deepening economic woes, record inflation of about 1600 percent - the highest in the world - and repression and corruption.
They have demanded that Mugabe, now 83, should quit. Some of the placards for Sunday's prayer meeting read "Zimbabwe Will Be Saved".
"Our just, legitimate and peaceful struggle will not cease," the alliance said yesterday.
On Sunday police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said police arrested Tsvangirai and other top party officials because they had "instigated people to come out and commit acts of violence".
He said one man was shot and killed when 200 opposition party "thugs" attacked about 20 policemen. The organisers identified the dead protester as Gift Tandare, an activist of Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change.
Authorities had declared the prayer meeting to be in breach of a three-month ban on political demonstrations.
Riot and paramilitary police reinforcements, which had been deployed since Friday in the area where the prayer meeting was scheduled, sealed off approaches to a sports ground and fired tear gas to disperse the gathering.
A Harare freelance photographer, Tsvangirayi Mukwahzi, and a freelance television producer, Tendai Nusiyu, were among the journalists arrested at the scene.
The prayer-meeting organisers said police patrolled the area late into Sunday night, injuring several people in efforts to impose a curfew. - Sapa-AP