Zimbabwean police arrested 15 people, including a journalist and the brother of a missing political activist, during a public protest against President Robert Mugabe, their lawyer said Friday.
Opposition is mounting against the 92-year-old Mugabe, whose decades in office have been marked by economic decline, repression of dissent, claims of vote-rigging, mass unemployment and emigration.
Lawyer Obey Shava said police rounded up the activists while they were holding a vigil in Africa Unity Square in central Harare calling upon Mugabe, in power since 1980, to step down.
“Some were arrested last night. Some, earlier,” he told AFP.
“The charges are robbery and obstructing or defeating the course of justice.”
Police claimed the protesters had robbed a woman passing by, he said.
“These are trumped up charges to instil fear and discourage people from occupying Africa Unity Square,” Shava said.
The square has been the venue of a series of protests over the disappearance of political activist Itai Dzamara who was abducted in March last year, allegedly by military intelligence agents.
His brother Patson, who was among those arrested, last week released a picture he said showed the missing man being held at an undisclosed location.
The army has denied responsibility for Dzamara’s abduction.
The journalist arrested at the protest was Paidamoyo Muzulu of NewsDay.
Shava said all those detained at the protest were likely to appear in court on Saturday.
“I am at the police station right now. They (police) are recording statements,” Shava said.
A group of churches, including the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance, the Prayer Network of Zimbabwe and the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, on Thursday joined a chorus of demands that Mugabe should quit.
“There is a clear indication and consensus that President Robert Mugabe has failed us. We feel very strongly that he too old to continue,” the convenor of the meeting, Pastor Ancelimo Magaya, told local media.