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This article participates on the following special index pages:
Index of articles on the mistreatment of the legal profession in Zimbabwe
police drag leading lawyers on to lorry for public beating
Raath, The Times (UK)
May 09, 2007
the special index page on the mistreatment of the legal profession
violently broke up a demonstration of lawyers yesterday, subjecting
them to punishment beatings as passing motorists stopped and watched
in horror. One group was corralled on to a truck and taken to open
grassland in a suburb of Harare, where they were assaulted as they
lay on the ground. The victims included Beatrice Mtetwa, president
of the Law Society of Zimbabwe and winner of a 2005 press freedom
award given in New York by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Lawyers were confronted by police with rubber truncheons, automatic
rifles and shotguns as they gathered outside the High Court to protest
against the arrest of two prominent human rights lawyers. Some of
the lawyers, including Eileen Sawyer, 80, the executive director
of the Zimbabwe
Human Rights NGO Forum, an alliance of civil liberty bodies,
stood their ground, but in the face of the lashing truncheons they
were forced to flee. Mrs Sawyer received several blows on her back.
"I thought, 'Oh my god, I'm going to break my pelvis again',"
she said. At least five people were treated for severe bruising.
President Mugabe has
encouraged security forces to deal violently with protests against
his regime. In March, after Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader,
and about 30 other officials of his Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) suffered severe injuries inflicted by police, Mr Mugabe said
of his critics: "They will get arrested and get bashed by police."
On Friday the lawyers Alec Muchadehama and Andrew Makoni were arrested
as they emerged from the High Court after arguing against the continued
detention - for more than a month - of 13 MDC officials whom the
Government accuses of being involved in an alleged petrol-bombing
They were released late
on Monday after being charged with "lying" in an affidavit
asserting there was evidence that the bombings in March and last
month had been carried out by the Government to justify the violent
repression of the past two months.
About 30 lawyers
were gathering outside the High Court yesterday, planning to march
to Parliament to present the Justice Minister with a petition protesting
against the treatment of Mr Muchadehama and Mr Makoni. A force of
police was also gathering, and Mrs Mtetwa attempted to negotiate
with the senior officer to allow them to proceed peacefully. His
response was to order the violent attack. Mrs Mtetwa, two other
Law Society councillors and an elderly white lawyer ran into the
nearby entrance of the Justice Ministry. "We thought we would
be safe there," she said. "But there were other cops waiting
inside. They dragged us out and threw us into the back of a truck."
They were driven to an open area next to a golf course east of the
city centre and ordered to get out. Mrs Mtetwa said that the senior
officer, in regular police uniform, ordered: "These people
must now be beaten." "One lawyer started running away,
a lot of cops chased after him. There were truckloads of cops,"
she said. Mrs Mtetwa said that she was attacked by a woman in plain
clothes. "The woman really went for me. They were beating us
everywhere, on my back, my stomach, my arms, my buttocks. It was
such a spectacle. Motorists on the road nearby stopped to watch."
Mrs Mtetwa added: "A police car with two officers stopped.
They rebuked the police who were beating us. They said, 'Why are
you doing this in public?' Then we were abandoned there. They said,
'Now you can go and demonstrate with your swollen bodies.'"
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