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Zimbabwe court releases rights lawyer on bail

Zimbabwe's Lawyers For Human Rights (ZLHR) Board Member Beatrice Mtetwa waves as she arrives at Harare Magistrates Court, March 20, 2013. RE
Zimbabwe's Lawyers For Human Rights (ZLHR) Board Member Beatrice Mtetwa waves as she arrives at Harare Magistrates Court, March 20, 2013. RE

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's high court on Monday released a prominent human rights lawyer on $500 bail, after more than a week in prison in a case that has renewed criticism of President Robert Mugabe's security forces.

High Court Judge Joseph Musakwa set aside an earlier decision by a magistrate to deny Beatrice Mtetwa bail.

"I am satisfied with the application by the appellant and I set aside the ruling of the (lower) court," Musakwa said.

Mtetwa was arrested last week together with four aides of Mugabe rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. Mtetwa was accused of shouting at and taking pictures of police officers who were conducting a search at the home of one of the aides.

The arrests came a day after Zimbabweans voted overwhelmingly for a new constitution that would curb presidential powers and pave the way for elections later this year.

But Tsvangirai and civic rights groups fear Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party are already undermining the chances of a free and fair election.

The bail hearing for the four Tsvangirai aides is expected on Tuesday.

(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; writing by Nelson Banya; editing by David Dolan)

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