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Zimbabwe police disrupt rally for imprisoned rights lawyers

[JURIST] Zimbabwean police Tuesday broke up a rally of about 50 lawyers who had gathered to protest the the arrest and imprisonment of two human rights lawyers, assaulting some attendees with rubber batons, according to a witness. Alec Muchadehama and Andrew Makoni, who represent opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party website] leader Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile], were arrested Friday, prompting the Zimbabwe Law Society to call for the demonstration. The lawyers were later released on bail. The government has declared a three month ban on rallies [JURIST report], but the protesting lawyers said they were exempt under the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) [text]. Critics say the police reaction is symptomatic of the increasing violence of President Robert Mugabe's regime. Reuters has more.

Mugabe has been accused of widespread human rights abuses at home and abroad. Police banned anti-government protests after a political rally by the MDC led to confrontations between police and protesters around the country. Political tensions have run high in Zimbabwe [JURIST news archive] especially since Mugabe announced in December that he planned to extend his presidency from 2008 to 2010 to correspond with parliamentary elections. Since March, opposition candidate Tsvangirai has been arrested [JURIST report] several times, on what supporters say are trumped-up charges, and allegedly beaten [JURIST report] in police custody.

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