Harare police raid NGO’s office

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Harare - Zimbabwe police on Monday raided the offices of a prominent human rights organisation in what lawyers said was the latest attempt to intimidate campaigners in the country.

“At least seven police officers in civilian clothes raided the offices of the Zimbabwe Peace Project and took some documents, including reports and CDs,” said Kumbirai Mafunda, the spokesperson for Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.

“This is purely harassment and another crackdown on human rights defenders,” he told reporters, speaking on behalf of the Zimbabwe Peace Project.

Mafunda said the officers had a warrant to search for “articles (intended) for criminal use”.

The document did not state the nature of the articles. Police could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Zimbabwe Peace Project records cases of human rights violations, notably during the run-up to the bloody 2008 vote.

The raid came after police last month arrested Okay Machisa, a leading activist and director of the human rights group Zimrights, for “scanning voter registration certificates with false names and misrepresenting that these people had been registered as voters”.

He has since been freed on bail.

In December, police raided the Zimrights offices in central Harare, detaining another official.

Zimbabwe police have led a growing crackdown on non-governmental organisations seen as critical of President Robert Mugabe.

With the southern African country readying for elections later this year, political tensions are running high and activists increasingly targeted.

Authorities have in the past threatened to revoke registration for groups deemed to be opposed to Mugabe's policies.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change party has urged the police to stop harassing rights activists and party supporters.

This year's election is set to end the coalition government led by arch-rivals Tsvangirai and Mugabe. - Sapa-AFP


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