msnbc.com news services
updated 1/8/2009 11:53:03 AM ET 2009-01-08T16:53:03

Opposition members accused of being involved in a bomb plot in Zimbabwe told a court Thursday that they were tortured into making false confessions.

The allegations were made a day after the seven were formally charged with terrorism, banditry and insurgency. All pleaded not guilty. They face the death penalty if convicted.

The seven are among a number of rights activists and opposition party members detained in recent weeks in what the opposition calls a crackdown on dissent.

In a separate case, another group of detainees has been accused — but so far not formally charged — of attempting to recruit fighters to train in neighboring Botswana to overthrow President Robert Mugabe.

The arrests have raised tensions in Zimbabwe, where Mugabe and the opposition are locked in a long dispute over allocation of cabinet posts under the power-sharing agreement, seen as the best chance of easing a deep economic crisis.

Morgan Tsvangirai has threatened to pull his Movement for Democratic Change party out of negotiations over the issue. Many of the activists in custody are MDC members and the party has said they were abducted.

Tsvangirai won the first round of voting in March elections, but fell short of the majority needed to become president, triggering a run-off which Mugabe won after the MDC leader pulled out, citing violent attacks on his supporters.

More on Zimbabwe

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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