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US Secretary Of State Rice Honors Zimbabwe Human Rights Legal Group

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, which has provided legal assistance to besieged democracy activists for the past decade, was honored by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on the occasion of International Human Rights Day.

Rice presented the group's president, Arnold Tsunga, with the first annual Freedom Defenders Award on Monday in a ceremony at the State Department in Washington.

VOA State Department correspondent David Gollust reported.

Otto Saki, a member of the group who was in Washington for the presentation told reporter Chris Gande of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that his organization faces an ever-increasing burden as human rights violations rise ahead of 2008 elections.

In Harare, meanwhile, two staff members of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition and one member of the activist group Women of Zimbabwe Arise were arrested Tuesday and charged with creating a criminal nuisance for demonstrating in the capital.

Arrested in the incident were Maria Matshe, a Crisis Coalition information intern, Crisis Coalition advocacy officer Gladys Hlatshwayo and WOZA activist Trust Musiwa.

The three were later released after paying fines of Z$40,000 apiece.

Their arrests occurred as around 250 members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise tried to march to parliament to hand over a petition complaining that the crisis talks under way in Pretoria, South Africa, have not addressed bread-and-butter issues.

Lawyer Andrew Makoni, representing those arrested, told reporter Patience Rusere that his clients did nothing wrong but paid the fine to obtain their release.

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