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Zimbabwe Police Defy Court Order to Free Prominent Human Rights Lawyer

Prominent human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa
Police on Monday defied a High Court order instructing the law enforcement agents to release top human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa arrested during Saturday’s swoop on Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Office in Harare.

The prominent human rights lawyer was arrested Saturday when she went to represent, Thabani Mpofu, a staff member of prime minister’s communications department as the police raided his home.

Following her arrest on charges obstructing the course of justice, Mtetwa was thrown into police holding cells prompting the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) to approach the High Court.

High Court Judge, Charles Hungwe, ordered the immediate release of the human rights lawyer.

Mtetwa was taken from Rhodesville Police Station to Harare Central Police Station on Monday before being returned to Rhodesville again where she was put behind bars despite the court order to release her.

ZLHR deputy chairperson, Precious Chakasikwa, told a news conference that her organization was dismayed by the police behavior.

The organization’s director, Irene Petras, said there has to be judicial and security sector reform in the country even if a new constitution that Zimbabweans voted for in a referendum last Saturday is adopted.

Results of the referendum are yet to be announced. Petras said the reforms will ensure Zimbabwe holds a free and fair election.

Zimbabwe Election Support Network director, Rindai Chipfunde Vava, said the targeting of rights defenders by the police was affecting human rights work in the country, adding this may result in citizens not voting freely in national elections expected to be held sometime this year.

Political analyst Joy Mabenge of the Institute for a Democratic Alternative for Zimbabwe, said the country will not be able to hold a credible election if police continue to target rights organizations and Prime Minister Tsvangirai’s party.

Mr. Tsvangirai, meanwhile, Monday afternoon met with Acting President Joice Mujuru and released a statement soon afterwards saying Mrs. Mujuru had assured him that she will speak with Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri over the arrest of his staffers and their lawyer.
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