Zimbabwe’s justice minister has threatened to prosecute three female opposition members who allege they were arrested and then abducted from police custody and sexually assaulted.
They say they were beaten and forced to drink each other’s urine.
The three, including an MP, are being treated in hospital for their injuries.
Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said the women made up the story to divert attention from the fact that they broke lockdown rules by attending a protest.
They should be arrested for violating rules aimed at stopping the spread of coronavirus, he said.
“I don’t believe the abduction is genuine,” Mr Ziyambi told the BBC.
Opposition activists allege that abduction and torture remains a tactic of the authorities even after the end the presidency of Robert Mugabe, who was overthrown in 2017.
Cecilia Chimbiri, who is a youth campaigner with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, has given graphic testimony to the BBC of how she, MP Joana Mamombe and Netsai Marowa, were maltreated over 24 hours by alleged state agents.
She said that they were stopped at a police checkpoint last Wednesday, as they were returning from a small protest march that they had organised in the capital, Harare, over the number of people going hungry during the coronavirus lockdown.