HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) -- Police arrested at least 70 opposition supporters
accused of political violence, state-run media reported Monday. A newly
elected opposition lawmaker also was detained, his lawyer said.
The suspects detained in the district of Buhera, 150 miles south of Harare,
are accused of attacking and injuring ruling party supporters during a spate
of violence last week that left several homes torched, according to the
state-run Herald newspaper.
The opposition denies any campaign of violence targeting the ruling ZANU-PF
party but acknowledged reports that some of its supporters retaliated during
the political unrest in Zimbabwe since disputed the elections March 29.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai faces longtime President Robert Mugabe
in a runoff scheduled for June 27.
Rights groups and opposition supporters have cited widespread violence and
intimidation in the run-up to the second-round vote, and there are
widespread fears that Mugabe will try to steal the election.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change says more than 50 supporters
have been killed and thousands driven out of their homes, especially in
U.S State Department spokesman Sean McCormack condemned the arrests.
"It's troubling, it's disturbing, and it's part of a continuing pattern on
the part of Zanu-PF to try to intimidate those who would like to speak up
with views different from those held by the government," McCormack said.
He said it was incumbent on the international community to apply as much
pressure and leverage as possible to ensure the runoff election is "executed
in such a way that people can actually vote their conscience, that they can
vote for the candidate of their choice."
Police detained MDC lawmaker Eric Matinenga when he went to visit the Buhera
suspects Saturday, his lawyer said. Matinenga, himself an attorney,
represented opposition leaders in a string of High Court cases.
The allegations against him were unclear, lawyer Innocent Chagonda said.
At least six other opposition lawmakers also have been arrested since the
March 29 elections. On Sunday, Arthur Mutambara - head of an MDC faction -
was jailed in Harare for allegedly making false statements that endangered
Mugabe was in Rome on Monday for a U.N. food summit.
"We're very confident that he's going to win and that's why he could afford
to go to Rome to represent Zimbabwe in this crucial meeting," Deputy
Information Minister Bright Matonga said. "This is about more than politics;
it's about people's stomachs."