Friday, May 15, 2009

Human Rights Lawyer Arrested in Zimbabwe

Via Yahoo! News (AP) -

A prominent Zimbabwean human rights lawyer was arrested in court Thursday, colleagues said, the latest in a series of detentions seen as undermining the new unity government's promises of reform.

Alec Muchadehama is well known for representing political and human rights activists and victims of state violence. He has been arrested and beaten by police in the past.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights director Irene Petras said Muchadehama was arrested at a magistrates court where he had gone to work.

Police at Harare Central Police Station confirmed he was there, but would not say on what charges he was being held.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said last week it feared the attorney general's office and some police officers were planning to arrest Muchadehama for allegedly facilitating "the improper release" of three clients charged with involvement in a plot to overthrow President Robert Mugabe. Neighboring governments have said they believe the allegations are baseless, and human rights groups say the case is part of a campaign to stifle dissent.

A magistrate revoked bail for all 18 suspects last week, prompting international outrage.

Fifteen of the suspects were freed again following the intervention of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, a former opposition leader.

In a speech Wednesday marking his government's first 100 days in power, Tsvangirai said hard-liners left over from Mugabe's old regime were violating the rule of law and the agreement that created the unity government. The situation is making foreign donors reluctant to grant development aid.

Tsvangirai's party condemned Muchadehama's arrest, issuing a statement blaming it on "the residual element fighting the inclusive government."

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