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Top Zimbabwe Human Rights Lawyer to Spend Weekend in Prison

Prominent human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa
Top human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa will spend the weekend in custody after the High Court on Friday postponed a bail appeal hearing to release her.

Mtetwa was arrested Sunday on allegations of obstructing justice and would have spent eight nights in remand prison before she Monday’s hearing.

Mtetwa is accused of shouting at police officers while they were conducting a search at the house of Thabani Mpofu, one of four employees of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's research department also arrested Sunday and are accused of illegally investigating Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri, Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo and Attorney General Johannes Tomana, among others. Mtetwa and the PM's staffers are denying the charges.

High Court judge Joseph Musakwa ruled that state prosecutors needed more time to prepare for the bail hearing. Defense attorney Harrison Nkomo said Mtetwa's appeal papers were filed early Thursday, giving prosecutors ample time to study them.

Meanwhile, lawyers demonstrated outside the magistrates court Friday where Mtetwa was refused bail on Wednesday and ordered she be held in custody to April 3.

Obstructing justice carries a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment.

At the same time, the Committee for the Protection of Journalists has written to Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa expressing concern about Mtetwa’s arrest and her subsequent detention by police in defiance of an order issued by a High Court judge.