By Nangayi Guyson – Harare – Zimbabwe’s top human rights activist ,Abel Chikomo, director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, was arrested on Wednesday and charged with failing to properly register his organization, police said.
But the Amnesty International has described the action as an attempt to silence government critics.
Amnesty’s deputy director for Africa, Michelle Kagari, said in a statement on Friday: “The charges against Abel Chikomo appear to be part of an orchestrated strategy by the Zimbabwean police and other state security organisations to silence critics of their human rights record.
“The charges against him must be dropped immediately.”
The arrest was made on the eve of a regional security summit in neighbouring Zambia, where African leaders demanded an end to harassment and intimidation in Zimbabwe, in what was seen as a rebuke to Robert Mugabe.
The charges against Chikomo are the latest in a growing list of human rights activists facing arrest and unlawful detention for their work.
In February, 45 activists including former lawmaker Munyaradzi Gwisai were charged with treason for discussing mass protests in Egypt and Tunisia.
Thirty-nine of the activists were later acquitted but the remaining six who were released on bail could face the death penalty if convicted.
In Bulawayo, the leaders of the activist organization Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu, have gone into hiding following threats of arbitrary arrest and prolonged detention.