HARARE - Zimbabwe's main opposition leader suffered a suspected skull fracture, brain injury and internal bleeding, doctors reported yesterday, after what his lawyers said were savage beatings in police custody.
Morgan Tsvangirai was moved to a unit where he could be more closely monitored and was awaiting the results of a brain scan carried out earlier yesterday, said Tafadza Mugabe, one of his lawyers.
Tsvangirai was among a dozen people allegedly beaten by police. They were among those who remained in hospital yesterday, their lawyers said. Another 34 were released early yesterday from the private hospital in Harare where they had been taken after a court appearance on Tuesday.
All had been arrested when police broke up an opposition prayer meeting on Sunday.
Those freed were told to return to the Harare magistrates' court when it opened yesterday, but amid chaos at the court no proceedings were held and the activists returned to their homes.
Innocent Chagonda, another Tsvangirai lawyer, said police withdrew from the Harare clinic where the opposition leader was being treated yesterday.
He said a high court order issued late on Monday ordered police to charge or release the opposition leaders and activists by noon on Tuesday. None were charged.
"As far as we are concerned, they are now free men," Chagonda said.
Tsvangirai, leader of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change, and colleagues from other opposition and civic groups were ferried in ambulances and buses from the magistrates' court on Tuesday after the state agreed to let all those detained receive medical attention.
Many of them sustained severe bruising and internal injuries after police raided a prayer meeting that authorities had declared illegal. One opposition activist, identified as Gift Tandare, was shot dead by police.
Beatrice Mtetwa, also a lawyer for the group, said the police forced Tsvangirai and many of the others to lie face down and then beat them savagely and repeatedly with truncheons both at the scene of the arrests and at police stations.
US ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell told the BBC: "We're all deeply shocked and saddened that the government of Zimbabwe feels it has to resort to such brutal tactics against its own people."
He also expressed disappointment at what he called the passivity of neighbouring states, including South Africa, in the face of the suffering of Zimbabweans. - Sapa-AP