/ 15 May 2009

Top rights lawyer released on bail in Zimbabwe

A Zimbabwean court on Friday ordered the release on bail of top human rights lawyer Alec Muchadehama, who was arrested on Thursday as part of a renewed crackdown on activists and the former opposition.

A judge in Harare Magistrates Court ordered that Muchadehama be freed on bail of $100.

On Thursday he was arrested on charges of obstructing the course of justice, while processing release orders for three high-profile political prisoners granted bail a day earlier.

Over the past two weeks, police have arrested several journalists, activists and members of Parliament of the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), now in coalition with Mugabe’s former ruling Zanu-PF party, on what the MDC calls ”trumped-up” charges.

Muchadehama was arrested over the release from custody of two senior MDC officials and a journalist.

The lawyer has been repeatedly harassed by the security apparatus because of his undaunted defence of the victims of political persecution and violence carried out under President Robert Mugabe’s watch.

Political persecution has continued since Mugabe went into coalition in February with former opposition leader and current Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Observers say senior officers fiercely loyal to Mugabe appear bent on trying to undermine the power-sharing administration.

Tsvangirai this week accused ”residual elements” in Mugabe’s old government of blocking the country’s recovery as Western governments have shirk the government’s calls for an $8-billion rescue package until seeing evidence of human rights reforms.

The MDC is due to meet on Sunday to review the party’s role in government. — Sapa-dpa