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Zimbabwe Rights Group Forced to Close Photo Exhibition Under Police Pressure

ZimRights National Programs Coordinator Olivia Gumbo said that although Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai officiated at the show's opening Wednesday, police later returned and demanded the photos be surrendered again

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Association said Friday that police forced it to close an exhibition of photographs about human rights violations despite an order from the High Court telling police to return seized photos and the support of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

ZimRights National Programs Coordinator Olivia Gumbo said that although Mr. Tsvangirai officiated at the opening on Wednesday, when police obeyed a High Court order and returned photos seized Tuesday, the police later demanded the photos be surrendered again, searched the Gallery Delta in Harare, the rights group's offices and placed its officers under surveillance.

ZimRights officers met Friday with Deputy Organizing Secretary Morgan Komichi of Mr. Tsvangirai's wing of the Movement for Democratic Change. Komichi said his party stands behind ZimRights, describing the police intervention as unacceptable under the current government of national unity.

ZimRights coordinator Gumbo gave VOA Studio 7 reporter Patience Rusere an account of the previous few days and said the organization is determined to find a way to reopen the controversial exhibition.

Meanwhile, police in Bulawayo, the country's second largest city, arrested artist Owen Maseko on Friday for for an exhibition of works about the Gukuruhundi purge of Matabeleland opponents of then-Prime Minister Robert Mugabe, at the Bulawayo Art Gallery.

Police also arrested gallery director Voti Thebe.

Lawyer Kucaca Phulu told VOA Studio 7 reporter Chris Gande that police had not yet filed charges against Maseko, who remained in lockup.