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Zimbabwe Police Attack Top Lawyers

Police attacked and beat up the president of the Zimbabwe Law Society, Beatrice Mtetwa, and three colleagues Tuesday for taking part in the largest protest ever held by Zimbabwe's legal profession. Peta Thornycroft reports for VOA the demonstrators were protesting the arrest of two human-rights lawyers last Friday.

About 100 lawyers had gathered outside the Harare High Court to demonstrate their anger that two colleagues, Alec Muchadahama and Andrew Makoni, had been arrested last Friday while engaged in official business for clients in detention.

Beatrice Mtetwa, a lawyer who has represented most journalists who have been arrested during President Robert Mugabe's crackdown on the media, says she is outraged by the arrests of the lawyers and the attack against herself and colleagues.

"I am all right, but angry," she said. Mtetwa said Zimbabwe had sunk to new lows by arresting lawyers engaged in official duties on behalf of clients.

When police ordered the lawyers to disperse from the High Court, Mtetwa and three councilors from the law society sprinted into the offices of the attorney general in the High Court.

Police followed them in, grabbed them, hauled them back into the street and shoved them into a truck.

She said the lawyers were taken to a field in a nearby suburb, forced to lie on their stomachs, and beaten by riot police, uniformed policemen and agents from the Central Intelligence Organization. She said their attackers shouted at them, that this was their "sentence."

She said she had intended to deliver a petition of protest to Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa before the demonstration was broken up.

The lawyers detained Friday, Muchadahama and Makoni, are representing 31 members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change who have been trying for three weeks to get bail after being charged with terrorism. The two lawyers were released Monday and now face charges of obstructing justice.

Neither Chinamasa nor Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi were available for comment.