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Top Zimbabwean Rights Lawyer Arrested As He Seeks Release Of Clients


Zimbabwean police investigators Thursday arrested Alec Muchadehama, one of the country's most prominent human rights defenders, when he showed up at the Harare magistrate's court seeking the release of three clients granted bail the day before by a higher court.

Fellow attorney Harrison Nkomo, representing Muchadehama, said later in the day that the police were transferring his client, initially held at Harare Central Police Station, to Matapi Police Station, notorious for its filthy cells, where Muchadehama was likely to spend the night.

Nkomo said he had filed an urgent application to the high court for Muchadehama's release.

Muchadehama has represented many officials and members of the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. On Wednesday he had succeeded in obtaining an order from a high court judge that three of his clients, including two MDC officials, be granted bail, and was following up on the order when arrested.

Correspondent Thomas Chiripasi of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported.

Muchadehama's arrest was the latest in a series of official actions including the arrest earlier this week of three employees of the Independent newspaper, the conviction and sentencing to 10 months in prison of a lawmaker from the Movement for Democratic Change party of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, and last week's re-arrest of 18 activists after they were indicted on charges they conspired to overthrow President Robert Mugabe.

National Constitutional Assembly Director Earnest Mudzengi said those incidents reflect a power struggle between hardliners and moderates in Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and an attempt by the hardliners to frustrate Mr. Tsvangirai's reform initiatives.

More reports from VOA's Studio Seven for Zimbabwe...

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