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Zimbabwe court orders release of 21 members of opposition party

Zimbabwe's high court on Thursday ordered the release of 21 activist members of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party website] who had been detained for over two years in connection with the death of police officer Petros Mutedza. The individuals are among 29 activists, referred to as the Glen View 29, who have been imprisoned in connection with the murder since May 2011. High Court Judge Chinembiri Bhunu found [AFP report] that there was no evidence implicating any of these 21 activists, but that seven others will still have to stand trial. The twenty-ninth member of the Glen View 29 died recently, having become seriously ill after two years of imprisonment. The MDC made a statement on its Facebook page [text] reiterating its position that the party members who had been imprisoned were innocent and condemning the practice of imprisoning citizens without a trial. Amnesty International [advocacy website] urged Zimbabwe to review police misconduct [press release] that took place in the aftermath of the murder.

Zimbabwe has previously been criticized for its failure to ensure compliance with international human rights standards. Last month three UN independent human rights experts urged [JURIST report] the government of Zimbabwe to respect international human rights including privacy and freedom of association, in light of growing hostility toward civil society organizations. In the weeks leading up to the country's March 16 constitutional referendum [JURIST report], with a subsequent election to take place in July, "human rights experts have received increasing numbers of reports about acts of intimidation and harassment, physical violence and arrests against civil society actors, mostly working on human rights issues." In January Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] said that the unity government, established in 2009 after the 2008 elections resulted in violence, failed to take the necessary steps [JURIST report] to ensure "credible, free and fair elections."

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