Back to Index
This article participates on the following special index pages:
Index of articles on the mistreatment of the legal profession in Zimbabwe
police assault protesting lawyers
& Guardian (SA)
May 08, 2007
Armed police violently
broke up a demonstration of lawyers wearing traditional legal gowns
outside Zimbabwe's High Court on Tuesday and took several away and
beat them, the independent Law Society and witnesses said.
One group was corralled
on to a truck and taken to open grassland in the Eastlea suburb
of Harare, where they were made to lie on the ground and were assaulted,
said attorney Beatrice Mtetwa, head of the Zimbabwe Law Society.
Afterwards, some were
being examined for injuries by doctors at a private clinic in northern
Harare, she said.
During the lunchtime
demonstration in downtown Harare, some of the lawyers, in white
court collars and other legal attire, were struck with riot sticks
as they argued their rights against orders to disperse.
They were protesting
against the arrest and detention of two of their colleagues on Friday
for allegedly obstructing the course of justice in their defence
of opposition activists.
A senior police officer,
using a bullhorn, warned the group of about 30 lawyers that their
protest was illegal under a ban on demonstrations in the Zimbabwe
Riot police, some armed
with automatic rifles and shotguns, pushed and jostled the lawyers,
hitting out at them.
It was not immediately
clear whether any of the protesters were being held under arrest
in a continuing clampdown against those seen as opposing the government.
The lawyers pleaded their
rights to gather and march peacefully to the nearby Parliament House,
but squads of police were ordered to disperse the group.
Last month, President
Robert Mugabe repeatedly told supporters demonstrations would not
be tolerated and police had the right to crush dissent and "bash"
perpetrators of unrest.
Two attorneys who specialised
in human rights issues and were defending jailed opposition activists
accused of petrol-bomb attacks were released from police cells Monday
after being arrested on Friday.
Police ignored two High
Court orders to release them over the weekend. Alec Muchadehama
(41) and a partner in the same firm, Andrew Makoni (36), were charged
Monday with obstructing justice and freed on bail.
State prosecutors alleged
the attorneys submitted "falsehoods" to a Harare Magistrate's
Court on April 30 over one alleged gasoline bombing in western Harare.
The two maintained a
fire at ruling party offices in the township of Mbare may have been
accidental or set deliberately to blame opposition activists.
They said scarce gasoline
and kerosene was stored at the offices.
Prosecutor Austin Muzivi
also alleged the two lawyers "lied" that a key witness
trumped up charges against government opponents.
searched the two lawyers' offices after their arrest on Friday and
combed through client files in breach of client-attorney confidentiality,
Muchadehama, most prominent
for representing activists and victims of state-orchestrated violence,
was held at Matapi police cells in western Harare, one of the nation's
harshest jails, and was denied warm clothing and even a blanket,
said Eric Matinenga, an attorney acting for him.
Night temperatures drop
to near freezing in Zimbabwe's southern hemisphere winter.
Matinenga said court
orders issued by Judge Tedius Karwe and Judge Alfas Chitakunye over
the weekend found no reason for the continued detention of the lawyers
arrested in the course of their professional duties.
Both orders to immediately
free them were served on police but ignored, he said.
Police and state officials
in Zimbabwe, including Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, have
frequently ignored court orders and although contempt of court proceedings
have been filed, none has been concluded.
Attorneys, human rights
activists and independent journalists have been accused of backing
a Western campaign led by Britain, the former colonial power, for
the ouster of President Robert Mugabe (83), who has ruled since
independence in 1980.
The government claims
the opposition Movement for Democratic Change mounted a Western-backed
campaign of terror and subversion that included a series of 11 gasoline
bombings, charges the opposition denies.
At one court hearing,
Muchadehama submitted that his clients could not have committed
one bombing cited by the state because they were already in jail
at the time.
Opposition leaders insist
the bombings were orchestrated by state agents to justify the arrests
and assault of activists and clear the way for the possible imposition
of a sweeping state of emergency as the nation faces deepening political
and economic turmoil.
month reached a record 2 200%, the highest in the world, and the
country is facing acute shortages of hard currency, gasoline, food,
medicines and most other basic goods. -- Sapa-AP
Please credit www.kubatana.net if you make use of material from this website.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.