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Zimbabwe activist treated at hospital

Appears in court following alleged beating by police

Initial medical reports indicated about 50 activists, including Morgan Tsvangirai (center) , sustained severe bruising. (Reuters)

HARARE, Zimbabwe -- Zimbabwe's main opposition leader, his right eye swollen shut and his head partly shaved to reveal crudely stitched gashes, left a courtroom yesterday and was treated at a hospital for injuries that his lawyer said were the result of savage police beatings.

Morgan Tsvangirai and other bruised and bloodied activists who were arrested at a prayer meeting Sunday were ferried under police guard by ambulance and bus to a private hospital for observation.

Initial medical reports indicated nearly all the 50 detained activists, including Tsvangirai, sustained severe bruising and internal injuries reportedly at the hands of police.

Late yesterday , all but 12 of the activists were taken back to court from the hospital. Beatrice Mtetwa, a lawyer for the group, said that they were moved at police orders and that no state prosecutor or magistrate was at the court.

"It is a unilateral appearance called by the police," Mtetwa said. She said Tsvangirai was among the dozen still at the hospital.

Tsvangirai, 54, and the other opposition figures were arrested in the latest crackdown on dissent by President Robert Mugabe's security forces and political supporters. Mtetwa said police forced Tsvangirai and many of her other clients to lie facedown and then beat them savagely and repeatedly with truncheons at the scene of the arrests and at police stations.

After their brief court appearance, she said the state intended to charge the activists with incitement to violence for holding the prayer meeting that authorities had declared illegal. Formal bail has not been granted to any of them, and Mtetwa said she would ask a judge to order their release.

As the bandaged activists shuffled into court, many sang and chanted in defiance of the heavy police presence. Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, stood but did not chant or sing.

British Ambassador Andrew Pockock, who was in court, said the right side of Tsvangirai's face was swollen, including his eyes. "It was damn barbaric," the envoy told reporters.

A crowd outside sang and waved the party's open hand salute as Tsvangirai and about six other injured activists left. Tsvangirai appeared disoriented as he walked slowly and boarded an emergency vehicle unaided.