Police in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, on Tuesday, issued a warrant of arrest for Member of Parliament Joana Mamombe, accusing her of failing to appear in court that day.
The police then arrested Mamombe while she was receiving treatment at an undisclosed hospital, New Zimbabwe reported.
A member of Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance, a court had ordered Mamombe to appear on Tuesday for the start of her trial. The state of Zimbabwe has accused her and two other women MDC members of lying about being abducted and tortured by government agents earlier this summer after they participated in an anti-government protest that defied a ban on gatherings during coronavirus lockdown.
The police issued a warrant for Mamombe’s arrest on Tuesday despite her lawyers explaining that she could not appear in court as she was being hospitalized. The reason for her hospitalization on Tuesday was not disclosed in the report.
Mamombe and fellow MDC members Cecilia Chimbiri and Nestai Marova were arrested in May for attending an unsanctioned protest in Harare. The women allege that “state agents then abducted them from the police, beat and sexually assaulted them, and forced them to drink each other’s urine,” according to the BBC. Roughly 48 hours after their alleged abduction, the women “were found dumped in a marketplace and had to receive treatment in hospital for their injuries.”
After the women relayed their accounts of the alleged abduction and torture from the hospital, Zimbabwe Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi told the press that they had concocted the story to divert attention from the fact that they defied lockdown rules by attending the protest.
“I don’t believe the abduction is genuine,” Ziyambi told the BBC in May, adding that he thought the women should be arrested for violating social distancing mandates designed to stop the spread of coronavirus. Less than a month after Justice Ziyambi threatened to prosecute the women, police arrested the trio again on June 10 for charges related to allegedly faking an abduction report.
Opposition activists allege that the Zimbabwean government uses abduction and torture as tactics to suppress dissidents and that the practice began under the presidency of Robert Mugabe, who was overthrown in 2017.