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Zimbabwe election body won't ease group's monitor ban

Zimbabwe's official election body says it will not back down on its ban preventing a leading human rights group from monitoring a referendum on a new constitution on Saturday.

Acting head of the Electoral Commission Joyce Kazembe said Wednesday the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association is facing charges relating to alleged electoral offences and will not be cleared to observe the referendum.

ZimRights officials have been accused of the illegal possession of voter registration forms and fraud in obtaining them. The group denies any wrongdoing.

Most independent civic groups say they will boycott vote monitoring Saturday if any activists are barred access to observe polling.

Police loyal to President Robert Mugabe have intensified raids and arrests targeting activist groups in recent weeks and have seized equipment and documents from their offices.