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Trial of Top Rights Lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa Opens in Zimbabwe

Prominent human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa

Prominent human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa

The trial of prominent human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa on charges of obstructing the course of justice opened in Harare Monday with the attorney pleading not guilty to the charge preferred against her by the State.

Prosecutor Tawanda Zvekare told the court that Mtetwa obstructed the police from performing their duties on March 17 when representing her client, Thabani Mpofu, whose house was being searched by officers.

The police said they were looking for what they said were illegal dockets that were being compiled by Mpofu, a researcher in Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Office, and three of his workmates who were also arrested in connection with the same offence.

Zvekare said Mtetwa arrived at Mpofu’s residence in Harare’s Westgate suburb and without asking any question, ordered the police to stop the searches saying they were unconstitutional and unlawful.

The prosecutor said Mtetwa took photographs using her cellphone that was later confiscated by officers upon her arrest.

Mtetwa told the court the police did not have a warrant when they searched Mpofu’s house.

Luckson Mukazhi, a chief superintendent in the drug section of the Criminal Investigation Department was the first state witness. Mukazhi said Mtetwa vowed to release the footage that she had taken with her mobile phone to the international media.

Mukazhi also told the court that Mtetwa labeled him and his team of officers as “Mugabe’s dogs” in the local Shona language. But Nkomo said this could not be true because Mtetwa, who comes from Swaziland, cannot speak Shona.

The witness said the commotion caused by Mtetwa resulted in police abandoning their search at Mpofu’s residence. As a result, the police arrived late at Mr. Tsvangirai’s Belgravia offices where Mukazhi claimed that four computers were removed shortly before their arrival.

Mukazhi told the court that Mtetwa complained to him that one of the male officers, only identified in court as Mamhiza, sexually abused her by touching her thighs without her consent. Mukazhi said he did not investigate the matter because Mtetwa asked her not to pursue it.

Although Mtetwa claimed that a warrant to search Mpofu’s house was not produced, Mukazhi stunned the court that the police can conduct searches with or without a warrant.

Nkomo said her client was a victim of a grand conspiracy by the state seeking to deport Mtetwa from Zimbabwe. He said officers went to the Law Society of Zimbabwe, the High Court and the immigration to check if her documentation was in order following the arrest.

He said Central Intelligence Organization officer also visited her ex-husband in search of incriminating information.

But Mukazhi rejected this saying the police does not have a vendetta against the top human rights lawyer.

Magistrate Rumbidzai Mugwagwa adjourned the trial to Saturday. Defense attorney Nkomo is not available during the week.

Earlier, Mugwagwa had dismissed Mtetwa’s application to postpone her trial. The rights lawyer wanted to attend to other court cases but the magistrate dismissed the application for lack of merit.