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 spateof violence last week that left several homes torched, according to thestate-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 rural areas.
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 canvote 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 state security.
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."