Six Zimbabwean political activists were abducted from their homes at night and beaten by armed men this week, ahead of planned street demonstrations by the main opposition party.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has called Friday’s protest against the handling of the economy by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.
Police have said they believe the protests will turn violent. The MDC says the demonstrations will be peaceful.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, a coalition of rights groups, said it suspected state security agents were behind the abductions and beatings of the rights activists accused of planning the protests.
“The developments so far point to a real risk that the people of Zimbabwe’s fundamental freedoms are once again in danger and this must be stopped before it gets out of control,” Jestina Mukoko, who chairs the forum, told reporters.
“Sadly, these developments remind us of the atrocities committed earlier this year in January,” she said, referring to a military crackdown on violent protests that led to the death of more than a dozen people.
Nick Mangwana, the secretary of the information ministry, said on Twitter he was not aware who was responsible for the attacks on activists and that these should be investigated.