Zimbabwe court orders another human rights defender (Beatrice Mtetwa) to be released

March 26, 2013

Having reported on 9 March 2013 on the case of Mukoko, who was arrested and ‘released’ a few days later (although the case against her remains pending), there is now the case of another well-known woman lawyer who was arrested and released after 8 days: As AP reports from Harare on 25 March:  “Zimbabwe’s High Court on Monday freed on bail a top rights lawyer who had been held for eight days on allegations of obstructing the course of justice…. She told reporters outside the courthouse that her arrest was a ploy to intimidate human rights defenders ahead of elections scheduled around July. “It is a personal attack on all human rights lawyers but I was just made the first example.Beatrice Mtetwa was arrested on March 17 along with four officials from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s party. ….Mtetwa was accused of shouting at police officers who were conducting a search at Tsvangirai’s staff offices when she demanded to see a search warrant.Mtetwa and the four officials deny any wrongdoing. High Court Judge Joseph Musakwa ruled early Monday that Mtetwa was following professional legal procedures when she demanded to see a search warrant from police at the offices of the four officials.”She was entitled to be appraised of the legality of the search,” Musakwa said. Critics have cited the arrests as the start of a fresh wave of political intimidation against opponents of President Robert Mugabe by loyalist police and judicial officials ahead of elections.

Last week police ignored an earlier High Court order to free Mtetwa and on Wednesday the lower Harare magistrates court ordered her held in custody to reappear in that court on April 3. Charges of obstructing justice carry a maximum of two years imprisonment. Mtetwa said she was not well-treated while in police custody. She wasnt allowed to take a bath and was denied access to her lawyers and family. But she said she will not give up the fight for human rights. The judge said Mtetwa should not have been denied bail because of her “professional standing.”

Mtetwa is a recipient of awards from international jurists groups including the American Bar Association … state media controlled by Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party has criticized Judge Charles Hungwe, who issued the first order for Mtetwa’s release. It said his actions pointed to the need for some judges to come under closer scrutiny over their rulings, and accused him of inefficiency and negligence in hearing other cases.  Mugabe’s party claimed Hungwe illegally made the first ruling not in a court but at his private home during the night after her arrest without giving police the right to state their case against freeing her. The Sunday Mail newspaper criticized lawyers who thought themselves “untouchable” and said Mtetwas “stage-managed antics in and outside the courts” earned her “dubious awards” from African and international lawyers groups.

via Zimbabwe court orders rights lawyer to be released – Yahoo! News.

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