Beatrice Mtetwa: Zimbabwe court releases rights lawyer on bail


Human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa (C) talking to the press outside the High Court in Harare, Zimbabwe, on April 6, 2008.



JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Zimbabwe's high court released prominent human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa on bail Monday.

Her immediate release was ordered after she spent eight days in jail for obstructing the course of justice. Court officials said Mtetwa was asked to post $500 bail and her release papers were being prepared the same day.

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"I am satisfied with the application by the appellant and I set aside the ruling of the [lower] court," High Court Judge Joseph Musakwa said.

Musakwa told the court in Harare that a magistrate had earlier erred in denying bail to Mtetwa.

International human rights groups had condemned Mtetwa's detention

According to NewZimbabwe.com, the ruling was delivered in a courtroom packed with fellow lawyers and other supporters including African-American actress Alfre Woodard, and Mary Kerry Kennedy, daughter of former US Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.

Musakwa described Mtetwa as "forceful," joking that if Mtetwa were a commando in war, she would have no prisoners, NewZimbabwe.com reported.

"She is a lawyer of many years, with a forceful, combative and at times aggressive personality, but she remains professional and dignified," the judge said, according to The Associated Press.

Mtetwa had been arrested for obstructing justice during a raid on the offices of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the party led by Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai who also a key figure in the opposition to President Robert Mugabe. 

Four other Tsvangirai aides were arrested during the raid and have been charged with impersonating police officers. Three computers also allegedly went missing at the time.

A bail hearing for four senior Tsvangirai aides is expected Tuesday. Everyone arrested have denied the charges and say they were collecting information on corruption.

GlobalPost previously reported on the arrests, noting that state prosecutors claimed the four members broke official secrets laws when they collected information on Zimbabwe's judicial officials who the MDC said were not prosecuting corrupt politicians.

Mtetwa is well known for representing journalists covering Zimbabwe, as well as human rights campaigners, opposition politicians and other Zimbabwe citizens jailed by Mugabe's regime. 

She has been brutally beaten by police twice before.

Erin Conway-Smith contributed to this report from Johannesburg.