Zimbabwe media defense lawyer arrested

New York, May 14, 2009–Police in Zimbabwe should immediately release Alec Muchadehama, left, a prominent human rights lawyer targeted for his work on behalf of journalist Anderson Shadreck Manyere and others, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Two agents of the Zimbabwe police’s Law and Order section arrested Alec Muchadehama at the Rotten Row Magistrates Courts in Harare this morning, according to a statement released by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. Following questioning at Harare Central Police Station, police charged Muchadehama with “obstructing the course of justice” under Zimbabwe’s Criminal Law Codification and (Reform) Act, according to the Media Institute of Southern Africa. The institute reported that the charges pertained to the lawyer’s negotiation of Manyere’s release on bail.

Muchadehama is part of a legal team that has successfully challenged ongoing efforts by state prosecutors to keep Manyere and a few activists in prison pending their trial on anti-state charges next month, according to CPJ research. He is the second media lawyer that has been illegally arrested in the last 12 months, after police arrested Harrison Nkomo last May.

Alec Muchadema should be released immediately and this pattern of intimidation against lawyers who defend journalists must stop,” said CPJ’s Africa Program Coordinator Tom Rhodes.

Muchadehama was expected to remain in custody overnight at the Braeside police station in Harare, according to lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa. Mtetwa said she was among friends and colleagues who drove in a convoy behind the vehicle that took Muchadehama to Braeside station. “With these abductions, you’re never sure where they can take people,” she said. Mtetwa was the subject of a criminal investigation this year.

Two years ago this month, Mtetwa was detained and assaulted by police.