Police in Zimbabwe detained 44 gay rights activists

Police in Zimbabwe detained 44 gay rights activists in a raid on the headquarters of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) in the capital, Harare.

The police raid came as activists were preparing the launch of a new report on abuses committed against gays and lesbians.

Police officers were alleged to have attacked many of the GALZ members before detaining 31 men and 13 women at the central police station.

"Police, some of them visibly drunk, assaulted most of the members using baton sticks," GALZ said. Activists had also been punched and kicked.

The activists were released the following day.

"GALZ does not condone violence and we are not a threat," said GALZ. "Those who cause violence are a threat to public safety and security and we ask that they stay away from our premises."

Police spokesman James Sabau denied activists had been arrested. He said they had been taken to the police station for "screening" but did not provide further details.

President Robert Mugabe's party has rejected calls for gay rights to be included in the country's new constitution, which has already stalled on its passage through parliament. Homosexual acts are illegal in Zimbabwe.

Mugabe is known for his anti-gay diatribes and has described homosexuals as "worse than dogs and pigs".

Opposition leaders, led by Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC-T party, accused Zanu-PF of wanting to draft a constitution that would leave most powers in the hands of the president and his party.