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Zimbabwe Police, Protesters Clash At MDC Youth Leader Murder Trial

Zimbabwe police fired teargas at protesters from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC formation Monday as the murder trial of the party's youth leader Solomon Madzore and 28 others opened at the Harare High Court.

One youth leader was arrested and detained by the police.

More than fifty MDC youths gathered outside the court entrance in the morning, holding a banner with Madzore's picture and the names of his co-accused demanding the release of the activists. The activists are seeking bail on charges of murdering a police officer a year ago.

The youths sang revolutionary songs demanding the immediate release of their leader and other activists.

Riot police came and dispersed the demonstrators and in the process assaulted them with baton sticks and fired teargas into the crowd. One police officer was injured in the skirmishes.

Costa Machingauta, the MDC's deputy national youth assembly chairperson, was arrested and is being held at Harare Central police station.

It could not be established what charges are being preferred on him.

Secretary general Promise Mkwananzi of the Tsvangirai MDC youth wing said they are unhappy that Madzore and others had been detained for a long time. He said the activists were being persecuted while those in Zanu PF accused of perpetrating political violence are walking scott-free.

In court, all the accused persons pleaded not guilty to charges of murdering police inspector Petros Mutedza or alternatively committing public violence in Harare's Glen View high density suburb in May last year.

Lead defense attorney, Charles Kwaramba, said Madzore and his co-accused were victims of police profiling against members of Mr. Tsvangirai's MDC formation.

Presiding judge, Chinembiri Bhunu, said the matter would proceed Tuesday when defense lawyers are expected to make submissions for the activists to be released on bail. The defense outlines were read in court Monday.

Madzore and his co-accused were arrested on separate occasions last year for allegedly murdering Mutedza but the accused have denied the charges.

The Tsvangirai MDC, to which they all belong, said Mutedza was killed by unknown revelers at a Glen View liquor store, adding that charges against the activists were brought for political reasons.