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Thursday, January 28, 1999 Published at 12:08 GMT

World: Africa

Doctor confirms Zimbabwe torture allegation

Riot police broke up a march supporting the journalists

By Harare Correspondent Joseph Winter

The medical report on two Zimbabwean journalists who say they were tortured has confirmed their accusations.

The editor and senior reporter of the Standard newspaper - Mark Chavunduka and Ray Choto - were detained by military police after their paper carried a story alleging a coup plot in Zimbabwe's army.

[ image: Arrested: Editor Mark Chavunduka]
Arrested: Editor Mark Chavunduka
After being released on bail, the journalists said the military had tortured them, an allegation denied by Zimbabwe's defence minister.

But Dr Philemon Chigwanda, a specialist orthopaedic and trauma surgeon, says he has no doubt that the two journalists were severely assaulted and tortured.

He examined them hours after they were released from military detention a week ago but the report has only now been released to the public.

The doctor says that both men had obvious bruising on their buttocks, arms and legs consistent with their stories of having been beaten with wooden blocks.

He also found signs of electric shocks on the feet of Ray Choto, author of the article about a coup plot.

Charges denied

The journalists have been charged with publishing false news, but they allege the military tortured them.

[ image: Arrested: Senior reporter Ray Choto]
Arrested: Senior reporter Ray Choto
They say the military appeared to be taking the coup plot story seriously and were seeking the sources of the story.

Both deny the charges and are currently free on bail, but have not yet returned to work.

Meanwhile the government's senior law officer, the attorney general, has promised that if the alleged victims lodge an official complaint he will order the police to investigate.

He said this in a meeting with a group of lawyers who, earlier this week, protested outside parliament about the claims of torture.

The incident has provoked outrage in Zimbabwe, but the government has denied the accusations and merely intensified its verbal attacks on the independent and foreign media.

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