Beatrice Mtetwa: Zimbabwe lawyer acquitted

Beatrice Mtetwa (April 2008)
Image caption Beatrice Mtetwa's arrest has been condemned by international lawyers

A Zimbabwe magistrate has freed top human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, who was charged with obstructing justice and being unruly to the police.

The charges refer to a raid in March at the offices of former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Harare magistrate Rumbidzai Mugwagwa ruled that there was "no evidence" that Ms Mtetwa had interfered with police duties.

Ms Mtetwa, a strong critic of Mr Mugabe, had pleaded not guilty.

Ms Mtetwa was put on trial in June after she was arrested on charges of using abusive language toward officers who were searching for an official from Mr Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change.

During the trial, the state had alleged that she shouted ``at the top of her voice,'' saying what the police were doing was "unconstitutional, illegal and unlawful," which the court found did not warrant the charges against her.

A police officer who was present during the raid had testified that Ms Mtetwa insulted detectives searching the premier's staff offices by calling them "Mugabe's dogs".

But the court on Tuesday ruled that Ms Mtetwa's presence had not prevented the police from doing their job.

"She is therefore discharged," the magistrate said.

Ms Mtetwa's arrest and detention had sparked widespread condemnation.

"I feel vindicated. This was a set-up and obviously the court has seen through it. The contradictions were many and varying," she said outside court.

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