Police raided Zimbabwe Christian Alliance offices on Monday and arrested five staff members for interrogation, the group reported.
The raid was performed by Zimbabwes riot police, which are well-known loyalist to President Robert Mugabe. ZCA claims that at least one of its staffs was assaulted before its workers were taken to the Harare Central Police station for questioning.
This is pure harassment of church organizations, Useni Sibanda, national coordinator for ZCA, declared in a statement. We are just doing our usual work and we dont understand why we should be attacked by riot police like this.
During the raid police confiscated papers including the March edition of the ZCA newsletter.
There is no charge against the ZCA staff members as of Monday afternoon, but a lawyer from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights is in Harare ready to represent those detained.
In March, the Zimbabwe church group had mobilized Christians to turn out to vote in the March 29 presidential election.
Although ZCA had said it did not promote a specific candidate, it is understood that the group was challenging Mugabes intimidation tactics that was aimed at keeping the supporters of his opponents at home.
We have been seeing more and more intimidation, much of it aggressive, against our church partner organizations, says Karyn Beattie, Tearfunds Zimbabwe disaster management advisor. However, church leaders and volunteers will continue to help the poorest in society.
ZCA is a partner organization of the U.K. relief agency Tearfund.
On Monday, the Human Rights Watch called for the African Union to press Mugabe to end political violence, according to The Associated Press. The human rights group said its report documented 36 deaths and more than 2,000 injuries caused by Mugabe party militants who are backed by the police and army. It noted that the figure could be higher.
In addition to physical injuries, Mugabes party is also said to be responsible for telling hospitals not to treat victims that are supporters of his opponent, arresting dozens of opposition activists, and looting homes and businesses of opposition supporters.
The European Union and the United States plan to call on the United Nations to send a team to Zimbabwe to monitor human rights ahead of the run-off election later this month, according to Agence France-Presse.
President Mugabe, who has held onto power for nearly three decades, was declared to have lost the general election in March. But his opponent Morgan Tsvangirai, although having won more votes, reportedly did not have the majority of votes to be declared the president without a run-off election.
Faced with the very real prospect of losing power, the 84-year-old Mugabe and his party the Zanu-PF party has resorted to violence, including an alleged plan to assassinate Tsvangirai and other key leaders of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change Party.
Under Mugabe, Zimbabwe which was once dubbed the breadbasket of southern Africa, has spiraled into an economic meltdown that includes an unemployment rate of about 80 percent and inflation at more than 100,000 percent.