Zimbabwean police arrested Alec Muchadehama a prominent human rights , accusing him of defeating the course
of justice, one of his lawyers said, in a move that could heighten
tensions in the new unity government.
Two agents of the Zimbabwe police’s Law
and Order section arrested Alec Muchadehama at the Rotten Row Magistrates
Courts in Harare this morning, according to a statement released by the
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. Following questioning at Harare
Central Police Station, police charged Muchadehama with “obstructing the
course of justice” under Zimbabwe’s Criminal Law Codification and
(Reform) Act, according to the Media Institute of Southern Africa. The
institute reported that the charges pertained to the lawyer’s negotiation
of Manyere’s release on bail.
The allegations are that Muchadehama,
connived with his co-accused Constance
Gambara, a clerk to High Court Judge Chinembiri Bhunu and facilitated
the unlawful release of the three from Chikurubi Maximum Prison on 17
April 2009. It is alleged that they did this despite knowledge of the
fact that a subsequent court order had been granted giving the state
leave to appeal against the granting of bail.
15/5/2009 : Alec Muchadehama was granted bail of US$100, a day after
being arrested and charged with obstructing the course of justice, in a
case involving three abductees.
Muchadehama is part of a legal team that
has successfully challenged ongoing efforts by state prosecutors to keep
Manyere and a few activists in prison pending their trial on anti-state
charges next month, according to CPJ research. He is the second media
lawyer that has been illegally arrested in the last 12 months, after
police arrested Harrison Nkomo last May.
The accused lawyer, Alec Muchadehama, was
part of a legal team representing political activists facing terrorism
Before Muchadehama's arrest, a statement
from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said police wanted to
question him for allegedly improperly facilitating the release of three
activists, including a former aide of MDC leader Tsvangirai.
Defence lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa told
reporters that Muchadehama's arrest showed that the unity government had
yet to protect the freedom of human rights activists.
"This is a continuation of harassment
of human rights defenders and I hope this is something the inclusive
government will address. This is intimidation," Mtetwa said.
Zimbabwe's unity government, formed by
rivals President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan
Tsvangirai, is under pressure to implement political reforms before
donors provide much needed financial aid to rescue the battered economy.
The arrest of several rights activists and
members of Tsvangirai's MDC party for allegedly plotting to topple Mugabe
has strained relations between the governing partners. A Zimbabwean court
later released the two on bail.
On 13 May, Tsvangirai said violations of
the power-sharing deal were depriving the country of aid from Western
donors pushing for democratic reforms.
The MDC said in a statement on Thursday
that its national council would meet on Sunday to review the party's role
in the inclusive unity deal and the challenges the government continues
to face since its formation in February.
in Zimbabwe should immediately release Alec Muchadehama, a prominent
human rights lawyer targeted for his work on behalf of journalist
Anderson Shadreck Manyere and others, the Committee to Protect
Journalists said .