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Zimbabwe arrests top rights lawyer

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(From L-R) Rights lawyer Arnold Tsunga, with journalists Kundai Mugwano and Isabella Matambanadzo, leave court in Harare, on September 25, 2006. Zimbabwean police on Saturday arrested the prominent rights lawyer running for parliament against President Robert Mugabe's party in July 31 polls, a lawyers group said. (AFP/File)

Zimbabwean police on Saturday arrested a prominent rights lawyer running for parliament against President Robert Mugabe's party in July 31 polls, a lawyers group said.

Arnold Tsunga, vying for a seat in the eastern city of Mutare, was detained together with his campaign team allegedly for holding an unauthorised rally, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said.

"They are currently detained at Dangamvura police station and the police have indicated their intention to transfer them to Mutare Central Police Station," the group said in a statement.

Police were not available to comment.

Tsunga is running for the Movement for Democratic Change of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Mugabe's archrival.

The lawyers association said another MDC activist and lawyer, Jacob Mafume, was barred from holding a campaign rally in a Harare suburb.

Zimbabwean parties are preparing for the July 31 vote, which will end the uneasy coalition between Tsvangirai and Mugabe born of the power-sharing deal that followed deadly 2008 post-election violence.

The run-up to the elections has been marred by a slow voter registration that left thousands off the roll and a chaotic special vote for the security forces.

Right groups have warned of political violence and intimidation as both leaders ramp up their campaigns.

Under Zimbabwe's security laws political gatherings or marches have to be sanctioned by the police but rights groups and opposition activists complain that rule is never enforced for Mugabe's Zanu-PF.

Mugabe, at 89 the world's second oldest head of state, is seeking another mandate at the helm of the troubled country, which he has ruled since independence in 1980.