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Zimbabwe opposition leader arrested for campaigning too close to election day

[JURIST] Police in Zimbabwe [JURIST news archive] arrested opposition leader Arthur Mutambara [BBC backgrounder] and 70 supporters on Friday for allegedly campaigning for a Saturday byelection in violation of Zimbabwe’s Public Order and Security Act [text], which makes it illegal to hold a political meeting of any size without written approval from police four days in advance of a political event. Mutambara’s faction of the Movement for Democratic Change [political party website] has candidates campaigning for a legislative seat vacated by the death of another lawmaker in February. Mutambara is president of one of two factions of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, which split from a faction led by Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile] last year in a bitter dispute. Both Tsvangirai’s faction and the party led by President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile] have candidates running for the legislative seat as well.

Zimbabwean police, who are tightly controlled by Mugabe’s administration, often use the Public Order and Security Act to stifle dissent, shut down independent newspapers, and arrest protesters. Applications for rallies and other political meetings are frequently turned down even when presented far in advance. Mutambara party spokesman Maxwell Zimugo stated that they applied on Monday to hold a campaign rally on Thursday, and were granted oral approval without written documentation to hold the rally on Friday. The Washington Post has more. Newzimbabwe.com has local coverage.

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