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Zimbabwe's MDC Cries Foul Over Prosecution of Another of Its Lawmakers

The formation of Zimbabwe's Movement for Democratic Change headed by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Wednesday accused Attorney General Johannes Tomana and police of dragging their feet in arraigning MDC Deputy Youth Minister Thamsanqa Mahlangu with the intention of ensuring that he would spend a second night in police lockup.

Police say the representative of Bulawayo's Nkulumane constituency stole a mobile phone from Joseph Chinotimba, vice president of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association and a prominent supporter of President Robert Mugabe.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, MDC officials said the failure to produce Mahlangu for arraignment 24 hours after his arrest showed that pro-ZANU PF judicial officials wanted to humiliate him and make sure he spent another night in inhospitable police cells.

Mahlangu's attorney, Charles Kwaramba told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that police told him they were still consolidating their case.

Reached by VOA, Chinotimba declined to comment in detail, but said he intends to sue Mahlangu for US$19 million over the alleged theft.

London-based political analyst Brilliant Mhlanga told Ntungamili Nkomo that the pattern of arrests of MDC parliamentarians was disturbing, saying the judiciary's inherent bias against the former opposition makes it hard to determine the merit of such accusations.

The Tsvangirai MDC formation has accused ZANU-PF of prosecuting its lawmakers on trumped-up charges in the aim of whittling down its parliamentary majority.

In another case involving an MDC lawmaker, High Court Judge Charles Hungwe heard arguments on the bid by suspended Chipinge East House of Assembly member Mathias Matewu Mlambo's to recover his seat, reported correspondent Thomas Chiripasi.

A Chipinge magistrate convicted and sentenced Mlambo to ten months in prison for obstructing the course of justice by allegedly preventing a police officer from arresting an MDC activist at a funeral in Manicaland province.

The legislator has denied the charges saying he is being prosecuted for political reasons.

Justice Hungwe reserved judgement indefinitely saying he needed time to study submissions made by prosecution and defense lawyers.

This means Mlambo cannot attend parliament in the meantime as he was suspended from the House under Section 42 of the Zimbabwean Constitution which specifies that a lawmaker who is convicted and receives a sentence of six months or more shall be unseated.

Representing Mlambo, attorney Tafadzwa Mugabe of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights argued that his client should be presumed innocent until his appeal of the conviction has run its course.

State counsel choice Damiso told the court that Clerk of Parliament Austin Zvomo followed the proper procedure under the Constitution in suspending Mlambo.

Zvoma has said the seat will be vacated if the legislator's appeal is unsuccessful.

More news from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...