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Mutambara arrested over Mugabe attack

ARREST: Arthur Mutambara
ARREST: Arthur Mutambara

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THE leader of a faction of Zimbabwe's MDC party was arrested Sunday over a written attack on Robert Mugabe, becoming the most senior opposition politician to be detained ahead of a run-off election.

Arthur Mutambara, who recently pledged to work with the main Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai to help oust President Mugabe later this month, was arrested up at his home in Harare, his party and lawyer said.

"He was arrested for publishing falsehoods and for contempt of court for an opinion article he wrote in April," the lawyer Harrison Nkomo told AFP.

One of his senior allies, former lawmaker Trudy Stevenson, confirmed that Mutambara was picked up at his Harare home by police on Sunday morning and taken to the central police station.

The editor of The Standard newspaper was arrested last month over the piece written by Mutambara which accused Mugabe of running down the Zimbabwean economy and his security forces of abuses.

Mutambara fell out with Tsvangirai in 2005 in a dispute over whether to contest elections to the largely ceremonial Senate and commanded the loyalty of nearly half the parliamentary party until joint legislative and presidential elections on March 29.

But his faction fared poorly in the elections and won only 10 seats in the 210-strong chamber while Tsvangirai's camp won 99. The two men subsequently agreed to join forces in parliament, although there has been no formal merger.

Nkomo said he did not expect Mutambara, who lost his seat in the March 29 election, to be brought before a court until Tuesday.

"I am only expecting him in court on Tuesday as no questioning will take place today. The questioning will only start tomorrow," he said.

Meanwhilem, Eric Matinenga, an opposition legislator and lawyer to the main MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, was picked up on Saturday in the eastern district of Buhera and was being charged with inciting public violence, MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said.

Three more MDC lawmakers have been arrested in Zimbabwe in the last month amid mounting violence in the approach to the run-off between Tsvangirai and Mugabe scheduled for June 27, although two are out on bail. - AFP/REUTERS

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