Battered Zimbabwe opposition leader appears in court after arrest

[JURIST] Zimbabwe opposition presidential hopeful Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], arrested [JURIST report] by government forces at a protest in Harare Sunday, was taken to a hospital Tuesday after a brief appearance in court along with 50 other detainees. 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. High Court Judge Chinemberi Bhunu had previously ordered police to give Tsvangirai access to both his lawyer and to immediate medical attention, and ordered that the detainees in custody be charged or released by noon Tuesday [BBC report]. Police, however, took the activists to the magistrate's court hours after missing Bhunu's deadline.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice [official profile] on Tuesday called for the immediate and unconditional release [press release] of the detainees and said that President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile] is "ruthless and repressive and creates only suffering for the people of Zimbabwe." UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour [official profile] urged that Tsvangirai be provided with all necessary medical treatment and be brought before the Court or released [press release].

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. As citizens approached the sports field where the "Save Zimbabwe Campaign" meeting was to be held, riot police forcefully blocked entrance to the grounds and fired tear gas on the crowds. One activist was shot dead. 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. AP has more.

 

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