Zimbabwe court drops charges against human rights lawyer


A Zimbabwe court on Tuesday dropped charges against a leading human rights lawyer who had faced trial for obstructing police, after state prosecutors failed to present evidence to support their case.

Beatrice Mtetwa, who has won international awards for her defense of journalists and opposition politicians, was arrested in March after police officers said she called them President Robert Mugabe’s “dogs” and took photographs of them during a search at the home of her client, a member of the opposition.

Mtetwa was arrested a day after Zimbabweans voted to adopt a new constitution that reduced presidential powers. She had argued that she was being persecuted for representing those who have spoken out against 89-year-old Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980.

Mtetwa, who had been out on bail, had asked the Harare Magistrate’s Court to dismiss the case.
“There is no evidence that the accused disturbed the police, she is therefore discharged,” Magistrate Rumbidzai Mugwagwa ruled on Tuesday.

Mugabe overwhelmingly won a July 31 election extending his 33-year rule. His main rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, denounced the poll as a “huge fraud”, but African observers broadly endorsed the vote as free and orderly.