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Prominent human rights lawyer must be released immediately
March 20, 2013
rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa must be immediately and unconditionally
released, Amnesty International said after she was denied bail in
a court appearance on Wednesday.
Mtetwa was arrested
on Sunday 17 March when she responded to a client whose home was
being searched by police in Harare. She remained in custody despite
a High Court order for her immediate release being issued at around
1am Monday morning.
is the unfortunate victim of arbitrary arrest and unlawful detention
and must be released immediately,” said Noel Kututwa, Amnesty
International’s southern Africa director.
that while Zimbabwe is in the process of adopting a new constitution
which provides a stronger bill of human rights, lawyers in the course
of their lawful duty are being so blatantly harassed and intimidated.”
Beatrice Mtetwa responded
to the call of a client, Thabani Mpofu, who is a staff member in
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's office, on Sunday morning during
a police search of his home. When she arrived at the premises police
were already conducting the search.
She asked to be shown
the search warrant and when police failed to produce it she told
police that what they were doing was "unlawful, unconstitutional,
illegal and undemocratic". Police arbitrarily arrested her
accusing her of shouting and "obstructing the course of justice".
Ms Mtetwa was handcuffed and detained in a police vehicle.
Following her arrest,
Beatrice Mtetwa's lawyers obtained a High Court order for her immediate
release on the grounds that the arrest was unlawful. Police did
not comply with the order and she remained in police custody. During
the night, two male police officers entered her cell and attempted
to remove her blankets
On Tuesday 19 March Beatrice
Mtetwa was brought to the Magistrate’s Court in Harare and
she applied for bail. At the hearing Ms Mtetwa's lawyers reported
that she was ill-treated while in custody. She was denied access
to her family and was denied a bath while in police custody.
The bail hearing concluded
today with the denial of bail. Beatrice Mtetwa has been remanded
in custody until 3 April.
arrest and detention is an attack on the legal profession in Zimbabwe
and in particular on lawyers who have fearlessly defended human
rights defenders and political activists,” said Kututwa.
authorities must ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of
their professional duties without intimidation, hindrance, harassment
and improper interference.”
has observed an increase in attacks on the rights of freedom of
expression, association and assembly in the run
up to the just ended referendum and to Zimbabwe’s 2013
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