Harare, Zimbabwe (CNN)The mood was somber as magistrate Bianca Makwande read her bail ruling to three members of Zimbabwe's main opposition party.
"The state says they faked their abduction, and that cannot be ignored," Makwande said in court on Monday. "In that regard, bail is denied."
The women's family members, their Movement for Democratic Change Alliance supporters, their lawyers and human rights defenders, such as Amnesty International, were left shocked.
The trio -- Cecilia Chimbiri, member of parliament Joana Mamombe and Netsai Marova -- say they were abducted and sexually assaulted by unidentified government security agents after a protest last month in the capital Harare.
Zimbabwe's government says no abduction took place and that the women's claims are false.
After the women were released from what they say was their violent experience, state prosecutors visited the women in a private hospital where they were receiving treatment.
At the activists' bedsides, the prosecutors charged them with breaking coronavirus lockdown regulations that forbid gathering for protests, before the trio was taken to a remand prison. Last week the state added a separate charge related to telling "falsehoods" against the state.
After being refused bail on Monday, the three women are now back behind bars and awaiting trial.
"It is highly likely that if convicted, they will be given a stiff custodial sentence which may induce them to skip bail," Makwande said in her ruling.
Home Affairs Minister Kazembe Kazembe said in court last week that the state would offer evidence that the three opposition leaders worked with unnamed embassies and civic organizations to "fake abductions" after contravening the country's coronavirus lockdown.
Prosecutors presented still images from what they say is evidence that the women went shopping in Harare at the same time they claim they had been abducted. The prosecutors say they will provide the full video at the trio's trial.
A government information official told CNN that it will not comment further on the case as it is now in court.
State-controlled media reported on June 14 that the women (and other opposition figures) have been working with foreign embassies to cause unrest in Zimbabwe.
The women's supporters say the government's charges are a clear sign that the tactics of Zimbabwe's government have changed little since the ouster of the divisive longtime President Robert Mugabe.
"Be strong, I will be fine, mama," 31-year-old Chimbiri told her mother as she was led out of the courtroom.