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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 September, 2003, 20:22 GMT 21:22 UK
Police arrest Mugabe opponents
State police on the attack
Zimbabwe's state police are quick to break up gatherings

Police in Zimbabwe have arrested more than 100 opposition supporters trying to hold a rally against President Robert Mugabe.

The protesters - organised by the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) - were gathering in a square in central Harare when the riot police arrived and broke up the crowd.

The demonstrators intended to march to the parliament building to condemn the government's closure last week of the country's only privately-owned daily newspaper.

A spokesman for the group - which includes political parties and student, church and rights activists - said those arrested had been taken to a Harare police station for questioning.

A police spokesman told the BBC they would be charged with conduct likely to breach the peace.

Mugabe spotlight

"The people wanted to demonstrate at parliament about the constitution issue, which we are linking to the closure of the Daily News," NCA official Ernest Mudzengi said.

"Police have arrested our members including NCA chairman Lovemore Madhuku," Mr Mudzengi said.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe
Mugabe's record is under growing criticism
Others included photojournalists covering the protest of about 500 people, witnesses said.

On Wednesday, police confiscated more than 120 computers from the offices of the Daily News, a spokesman said.

Police say they need these so that they can prove in court that the paper has been breaking the law.

The move has provoked condemnation of the rule of President Mugabe.

Australia and Zimbabwe exchanged angry words on Wednesday over whether Mr Mugabe should be invited to a Commonwealth summit meeting in Nigeria in December.

Zimbabwe was suspended from the body last year after Mr Mugabe was re-elected president amid allegations of widespread vote-rigging and continued human rights abuses.


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