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Zimbabwean Opposition Leader Arrested; Judge Upholds Ban on Protest March

Zimbabwe's main opposition leader was briefly detained by police Wednesday, ahead of a planned protest march.

Police seized Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, during a pre-dawn raid on his home in the capital city of Harare.

Authorities had initially authorized the march, but reversed themselves on Monday, citing fears it would degenerate into violence. The MDC sought a court order to overturn the ban, but a judge upheld the government's decision during a hearing Wednesday. However, the court ruled the party is allowed to hold a rally at a stadium on the outskirts of Harare.

The MDC says the planned march was intended to pressure the Zimbabwean government for a new constitution before presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for March.

Police have used heavy-handed tactics to prevent or break up opposition rallies in the past. Last March, security forces severely beat Mr. Tsvangirai and other opposition leaders as they tried to hold a mass rally in Harare.

Zimbabwe is mired in an economic crisis, with an annual inflation rate of several thousand percent as well as shortages of food, fuel, and foreign currency.

Critics blame the policies of 83-year-old President Robert Mugabe for Zimbabwe's economic woes, while Mr. Mugabe has laid the problems on interference from Western nations led by Britain.

Mr. Mugabe has held a tight grip on power since the nation achieved its independence from Britain in 1980.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.