Top Zimbabwe human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa acquitted


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



Top Zimbabwe human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa was acquitted Tuesday of charges of obstructing justice and being unruly to police officers.

The charges referred to a raid in March at the offices of former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai where Mtetwa, a strong critic of President Robert Mugabe, was accused of shouting "at the top of her voice," saying what police were doing was "unconstitutional, illegal and unlawful."

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A police officer present at the raid had testified that Mtetwa insulted detectives by calling them "Mugabe's dogs."

But Harare magistrate Rumbidzai Mugwagwa ruled there was "no evidence" that Mtetwa, who had pleaded not guilty, had interfered with police.

Mtetwa, also the chairwoman for Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, has been out on bail since March.

Speaking outside the court on Tuesday, Mtetwa said she was happy with the court's decision.

"Of course I feel vindicated. This was a set up," she said. "I have since March been doing nothing but defending myself which means I have not been able to do work for a lot of my clients. So they have completely destabilized my practice, made sure my clients were not represented by the lawyer of their choice."