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Lawyer Protests Detention of Zimbabwean Opposition Leader Arthur Mutambara

Lawyers for Zimbabwean opposition leader Arthur Mutambara are protesting his arrest and calling for him to be brought to court one day after he was detained on charges of offending the state. VOA's Scott Bobb reports from our Southern Africa Bureau in Johannesburg.

Lawyers for the leader of a faction of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, Arthur Mutambara, were trying to have their client brought to court or have his case dismissed.

Mutambara was arrested at his home Sunday on charges of publishing falsehoods and offending security forces. The charges stem from an article which said the military was running the country, intimidating ordinary citizens and brutalizing opposition supporters.

Mutambara's lawyer, Harrison Nkomo, says the government's actions were unwarranted.

"In a democratic society such criticisms of public offices is allowed. And Zimbabwe is no exception to that," said Nkomo. "If they allege to be a democracy they should surely take that kind of criticism."

He adds that the article was published more than one month ago and the editor of the newspaper in which it appeared, Davison Maruziva of the Standard, was charged at that time.

"That's the issue that we are asking the court. Because at the time of the arrest of [editor] Maruziva, Arthur Mutambara was in the country, the police never arrested him," said Nkomo. "He went to South Africa on his business and came back. And for some reason, now they've decided to charge him.

The editor's trial is reportedly due to begin this week.

Nkomo said his client was in relatively good condition given prison conditions. He accused the police of seeking to keep Mutambara in detention and urged the authorities to bring him to court as soon as possible.

Mutambara is the most senior opposition leader to be arrested since the March 29 elections. The opposition says more than 50 activists have been killed and hundreds wounded in a campaign of intimidation by supporters of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party.

Several ZANU-PF supporters have also been killed in recent weeks. The state controlled Herald Newspaper Monday reported that 70 people had been arrested in connection with these attacks.

Mr. Mugabe is to face opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in a runoff presidential election later this month. But the violence has led civic groups to say a free and fair vote is now impossible.