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Police Arrest 22, Set Up Blockades to Stop Zimbabwe Vote Protests

April 07, 2002|From Associated Press

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Police cracked down on planned Saturday demonstrations against the disputed presidential elections, arresting at least 22 people in the capital and blockading strategic locations in towns across Zimbabwe.

The arrested demonstrators include Lovemore Madhuku, who heads the umbrella organization of civic groups setting up the protest against President Robert Mugabe's reelection.

Madhuku, speaking from the Harare police station on his mobile phone, said detainees expect to be charged with defying security laws that ban political gatherings of more than three people without police authorization.

Small groups of demonstrators, some waving banners demanding democratic reform, were prevented from reaching the site of a planned march through downtown Harare. Police closed off downtown with roadblocks.

Police blockades also prevented gatherings in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second-largest city, and in the provincial towns of Mutare and Gweru, said Douglas Mwonzura, spokesman for the National Constitutional Assembly, the alliance of civic groups that called for nationwide protests Saturday.

Television journalist Edwina Spicer and her husband were arrested and briefly detained Saturday, apparently after filming truckloads of police deploying in the capital. Also, 354 activists arrested Thursday were freed on bail Saturday.

Thousands of government critics and opposition activists have been arrested since the March election, in which the government said Mugabe defeated opposition Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai. The opposition asserts that the vote was rigged.

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