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Detained Zimbabwean Lawyers Released on Bail

Zimbabwe lawyer Douglas Coltart joins fellow lawyers during a protest against police brutality, while marching from the High Court to the Ministry of Home Affairs where they submitted their petition in Harare, on November 29, 2019.

HARARE — Two Zimbabwean human rights lawyers, Douglas Coltart and Tapiwa Muchineripi, representing members of the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change, on Tuesday were released from jail after facing charges of obstructing justice.

The lawyers were released on a $100 bail after spending a night in jail for allegedly blocking police from questioning their clients who were hospitalized in the nation's capital, Harare.

Coltart and Muchineripi were attending to Womberaishe Ndende, a recently re-elected councilor for CCC, and Sanele Mkhulhani, an activist.

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, ZLHR, allege that Nhende and Mkhulhani were forced out of their vehicle by armed suspected government agents and later handcuffed, tasered, beaten with truncheons and "injected (with) an unknown substance ... before they (were) dumped" naked near a river.

A social media statement released by CCC said the alleged abduction created a "somber atmosphere in post-election Zimbabwe."

"The two (Nhende and Mkhulhani) were victims of abduction and torture by the regime in Harare," read the statement released on CCC's official X, formerly known as Twitter, site.

"The regime's actions, including the arrest of the lawyers representing them, have created a somber atmosphere in post-election Zimbabwe," it added statement.

Speaking in court, Alec Muchadehama, the lawyer representing Coltart and Muchineripi, said police unlawfully arrested the duo after an initial "cordial" conversation in which the law enforcement agreed to return to the hospital at a later time to question Nhende and Mkhulhani.

Muchadehama says a different police official who visited the hospital later became "dramatic" and accused the pair of obstructing justice.

Jeremiah Bamu, Muchadehama's co-counsel, said they have made formal complaints before the courts, arguing that arresting the two lawyers amounted "to a criminalization of the exercise of the profession."

"They were in the course of carrying out their duties and all they did was to convey advice that had been received from medical personnel about the medical condition of their clients and their ability to extend police interviews," Bamu added.

The southern Africa country last month staged disputed elections pitching CCC leader Nelson Chamisa against Emmerson Mnangagwa, whose ZANU-PF party has been in power since independence in 1980.

Chamisa rejected the election outcome arguing that the polls were "flawed" and marred with electoral violence.

Mnangagwa, who was sworn in on Monday, won a second term with 52.6% of the vote, according to the official results.

Some information for this article was sourced from Agence France-Presse. VOA Zimbabwe correspondent Godwin Mangudya contributed.