A Zimbabwean doctor whose alleged abduction led to days of protests has been freed, activists announced, as the government claimed he had simply been missing.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum said the president of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association, Peter Magombeyi, had been released overnight into the custody of his lawyers.

A police statement said he “has been found by police”.

He was being treated at a hospital in the capital Harare, but there were no immediate details on his condition. The government’s information ministry said police efforts to debrief him were not working “as he prefers not to speak to the authorities”.

More than 50 government critics have been abducted in Zimbabwe this year, at times tortured and warned by suspected state security agents to back off from anti-government actions.

One woman was forced to drink raw sewage, Human Rights Watch has said.

Protesters in Harare
Protesters in Harare (Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP)

Dr Magombeyi was seized on Saturday after calling for a pay strike as Zimbabwe’s health care system collapses along with the southern African nation’s economy.

This week a growing number of health workers said they would not return to work until he was found, bringing many health care efforts to a halt.

Many workers say they can no longer afford even the commute to work as their salaries are £80 or less a month.