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Zimbabwe opposition to challenge ban on march under amended public order law

[JURIST] Zimbabwean police banned an opposition party political march on Tuesday, setting the stage for a legal battle involving recent amendments [JURIST report] to Zimbabwe's restrictive Public Order and Security Act [PDF text], which allows police to deny any party's application for a public gathering. Under the old version of the law, the Minister of Home Affairs, which is controlled by the ruling party, had exclusive jurisdiction over appeals of such denials, but under amendments signed by President Mugabe [JURIST report] on Sunday, political parties may appeal to a neutral magistrate and police may justify permit denials only on security grounds. The opposition is expected to appeal the denial Tuesday. The march had been scheduled for Wednesday. AP has more.

Mugabe is seeking a sixth term as president of Zimbabwe, and he is expected to prevail over splintered opposition. In the past, Zimbabwe has used the Public Order and Security Act to crack down on anti-government protests. In May, police in Harare arrested [JURIST report] members of the National Constitutional Assembly [official website] who protested against proposed amendments to the Zimbabwean Constitution [PDF text], later passed and signed into law [JURIST report], which essentially allow Mugabe to pick his successor. That same month, Zimbabwean police broke up a rally of about 50 lawyers who had gathered to protest the the arrest and imprisonment of two human rights advocates; the lawyers argued that the Public Order and Security Act exempted them from a general ban against demonstrations [JURIST reports].

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