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Jailed Zimbabwe activists caught in legal battle

  • Story Highlights
  • Judge ordered 32 activists released from jail, 9 of them sent for medical care
  • Police say they'll keep the activists in jail pending outcome of an appeal
  • Police are in contempt of court for ignoring the order, say attorneys for the activists
  • Attorneys charge the government's appeal hasn't been filed correctly
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HARARE, Zimbabwe (CNN) -- Zimbabwean police are in contempt of court for failing to follow a judge's order to release jailed members of the opposition, attorneys for the activists said.

Zimbabwean human rights activist Jestina Mukoko arrives at court in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Wednesday.

Zimbabwean human rights activist Jestina Mukoko arrives at court in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Wednesday.

Police, however, maintain the 32 people who oppose President Robert Mugabe will remain in custody pending the outcome of a government appeal to the Supreme Court.

"We have been advised by the attorney general's office that they have noted an appeal against the High Court order issued on Wednesday," police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena told the state-owned Herald newspaper in a story Saturday. "We are holding them in custody until the appeal is heard."

High Court Judge Yunus Omarjee on Wednesday ordered the unconditional release of 23 opposition members -- including a 2-year-old boy. The judge ordered that the other nine, including activist Jestina Mukoko, be freed and sent for medical treatment, because of allegations they were tortured while in custody.

Irene Petras, one of the lawyers representing the opposition members, dismissed Bvudzijena's remarks.

"We still maintain that the police [are in] contempt of court," she told CNN. "I saw the purported appeal and it is defective for a number of reasons, including that it has not yet been filed with the Supreme Court. It was only served to the High Court. The police [are] trying to mislead everyone about [it]."

It was unclear when the government appealed.

Some of the detainees are charged with recruiting people to undergo military training in Botswana for purposes of removing Mugabe from power, officials have said.

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