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Zimbabwe opposition leader free after prosecution no-show

[JURIST] Zimbabwe prosecutors failed to appear in court on Wednesday to prosecute opposition presidential hopeful Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], arrested [JURIST report] at a protest in Harare Sunday, leaving him free to return home. On Monday, Tsvangirai's lawyer and party officials said he was beaten [JURIST report] while in police custody; he appeared in court Tuesday with a large gash on his head and a swollen face and was later released to the hospital. Prosecutors may still summon Tsvangirai back to court. AFP has more.

Tsvangirai's arrest and alleged abuse have drawn international attention to the regime of current President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile], who at 83 years old has held Zimbabwe's presidency since the country was granted independence from the UK in 1980. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice [official profile] on Tuesday called for the immediate and unconditional release [press release] of Tsvangirai and other detainees and said that Mugabe is "ruthless and repressive and creates only suffering for the people of Zimbabwe."

Government forces arrested at least 100 people, among them leading members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party website] after a scheduled prayer meeting in Harare was declared illegal. Police imposed a three-month ban [JURIST report] on anti-government protests last month after a political rally by the MDC led to confrontations between police and citizens around the country.

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