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After 24 Hours Incarceration, Zimbabwe Rights Lawyer Is Freed on Bail

Zimbabwean human rights lawyers on Friday secured the release of a colleague locked up one day earlier as he sought the release of three of his own clients, charged with improperly obtaining their release on bail in April in an earlier phase of the proceedings.

The episode came in the midst of a number of state prosecutorial and judicial actions which observers have interpreted as a crackdown by hardline elements of the former ruling ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe. The crackdown comes amid mounting tensions within the national unity government headed by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Police earlier this week arrested three employees of the weekly newspaper The Independent over an article based on court documents that implicated agents of the state security apparatus in abductions of opposition and civil society activists in late 2008.

Attorney Alec Muchadehama was accused of conniving with a court official, who was arrested on Wednesday, to secure the release on bail of two officials of the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and a photojournalist before the expiration of a seven-day period in which state prosecutors might appeal the bail.

Following Muchadehama's arrest in Harare magistrate's court Thursday, his colleagues filed an urgent application in High Court and on Friday a magistrate ordered him freed on bail.

Correspondent Thomas Chiripasi of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported from Harare.

Zimbabwean lawyers responding to Muchadehama's arrest gathered Friday to decide how to protest his incarceration. Members of the Law Society of Zimbabwe condemned what they described as an arbitrary arrest for the purposes of harassment and intimidation.

Correspondent Sylvia Manika of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported.

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