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Prominent Civil Rights Lawyer Arrested in Zimbabwe

  • Peta Thornycroft

Zimbabwe's police on Thursday arrested top human rights lawyer Alec Muchadehama. He was arrested outside Harare's Magistrates court where he had been working on securing the freedom of three high-profile political prisoners, who were recovering in the hospital after being kidnapped and allegedly tortured late last year.

In a phone conversation with VOA, Muchadehama said he had been told by police he was accused of obstruction of justice by trying to free the three prisoners through a clerk at the court.

He said he did not know whether he would be charged immediately or held over the weekend. The clerk is due to apply for bail Friday after she was arrested on the same charge last week.

Chief inspector: no comment

Chief Inspector Henry Dowa, who was at Criminal Investigation Department headquarters, said he could not comment on Muchadehama's arrest.

One of the prisoners Muchadehama was trying to release was Movement for Democratic Change security director Chris Dlamini, who was abducted from his home last November and is still in the hospital recovering from injuries he alleged he sustained while being held in a secret location. Prison guards at the hospital said Dlamini had not been removed from his ward even though he and two colleagues were to be freed on bail Wednesday.

Charges stem from Mugabe allegations

The long-running case against Dlamini and other human rights activists stems from President Robert Mugabe's allegations the Movement for Democratic Change was training insurgents in Botswana to overthrow him.

Dlamini says in his court papers in the upcoming trial he was filmed making a confession after being tortured. The video was shown at a December SADC security meeting in Botswana.

Botswanan officials and the then-chairman of the Southern African Development Community, former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe, said they could find no evidence of Mr. Mugabe's claim.

Is police undermining power-sharing government?

Observers say police, who are under the control of senior officers loyal to Mr. Mugabe, appear to be deliberately abusing the rule of law to try to undermine the new power-sharing government.

The agreement that spawned the unity government, in which MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai is prime minister and Mr. Mugabe president, calls for an end to political repression and for human rights reforms.
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