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Church: American medical team hopes to be released in Zimbabwe

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Magistrate in Zimbabwe will hear allegations against medical team
  • There's been a misunderstanding, American minister says
  • Oakland, California, church has done mission work there since 2000
  • Zimbabwe
  • Africa
  • Oakland
  • HIV and AIDS

(CNN) -- Five Americans -- two of them doctors -- who treat AIDS patients are expected to appear Monday before a magistrate in Harare, Zimbabwe, on allegations of operating an unlicensed clinic and dispensing medicines without a pharmacist's supervision.

An Oakland, California, church that sent four of the Americans on the mission trip believes "there's been some kind of miscommunication" and is hopeful they will be released Monday and allowed to return home.

The doctors and nurses were sent to provide care in the capital of Harare and at the Mother of Peace Orphanage in the town of Mutoko. They were reportedly taken into custody along with a Zimbabwean doctor on Thursday

"We've always had a good relationship with authorities and people," said the Rev. Theophous Reagans, minister of global missions at Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland.

The group was being held Sunday in a Harare jail, Reagans said. "People [in the area] indicated they are in good spirits" and have food and water, he said.

The state-run newspaper,The Herald, quoted Detective Inspector Augustine Zimbili as confirming Thursday's arrests.

"We have picked up the six for questioning in connection with practicing without a premises' licence and dispensing medicines without the supervision of a pharmacist," he told The Herald.

Attorney Jonathan Samukange said his clients denied the charges.

"It is our duty to ensure that all clinics and medical institutions are registered for easy monitoring," Zimbili said. "There is a risk of dispensation of expired drugs. When premises are not licensed, it is difficult to check if the act is being complied with."

Since 2000, Allen Temple has sent its members to Zimbabwe three times a year to treat AIDs patients and dispense medications. The largely African-American church feels "a connection to the people on the African continent," Reagans said.

"We went on a mission of love, and hope it can be cleared up Monday," Reagans told CNN, adding the team has nothing to do with the licensing of facilities.

He identified the four Allen Temple volunteers as Dr. Anthony Jones, nurses David Greenberg and Gregory Miller, and Allen Temple Baptist Church AIDS Ministry administrator Gloria Cox-Crowell. They were working with the other two doctors.

The identities of the fifth American and the Zimbabwean doctor could not be confirmed Sunday.

CNN's Phil Gast contributed to this report