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Zimbabwe: Police crack down on opposition protest in Harare

Law enforcement violently disperses opposition supporters in front of capital’s court

Zimbabwean police used batons to disperse a demonstration by opposition supporters gathered in front of the Harare Magistrate’s Court on Thursday. The demonstrators expressed their anger at the continued detention of dozens of activists arrested in mid-June, after having gathered without official authorization.

Dozens of supporters of the Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) gathered outside the court, chanting slogans to demand the release of 78 activists. The latter were arrested during a barbecue commemorating the Day of the African Child, organized at the residence of Jameson Timba, interim leader of an opposition faction.

The rally degenerated into scuffles when police, present in large numbers, pushed a lawyer speaking to journalists outside the court. Opposition supporters intervened, prompting a forceful intervention by the police.

The detained activists, charged with disturbing public order and participating in a gathering aimed at promoting violence, face a fine or up to five years in prison if convicted. Their lawyers argue that they had no violent intentions and that the meeting was peaceful.

Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have condemned the arrests and detentions, calling them part of a worrying pattern of repression of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression. Amnesty has called for an investigation into allegations that some activists have been tortured while in detention.

These organizations say repression continues to target the opposition, university students and trade unionists, illustrating a persistent climate of political repression despite promises of democratic reforms made by President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Succeeding Robert Mugabe after a coup in 2017, Mnangagwa has often warned the opposition against inciting violence, while denying allegations of repression.