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Case dismissed against Zimbabwe rights lawwyer

Zimbabwe opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) lawyer Alec Muchadehama leaves the High Court in the capital Harare in this April 7, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Howard Burditt

HARARE (Reuters) - A Zimbabwean court on Monday dismissed charges against a leading human rights lawyer accused of obstructing the course of justice, a defence attorney said.

The lawyer, Alec Muchadehama, was part of a legal team representing political activists facing terrorism charges. He was arrested last month and detained overnight, accused of trying to use an unsigned court judgment to free the activists from detention.

“In her ruling today, the magistrate noted that the state had failed to furnish the court with sufficient evidence to establish a reasonable suspicion that the accused had committed the alleged offence,” lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa told Reuters.

Critics said his detention was a vindictive action against members of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) by hardliners in President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party.

Zimbabwe’s unity government, formed by rivals Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, is under pressure to implement political reforms before donors provide financial aid to rescue the battered economy.

The arrest of several rights activists and members of Tsvangirai’s MDC for allegedly plotting to overthrow Mugabe has strained relations between the governing partners.