Zimbabwe court strikes down police ban on protests

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's High Court struck down on Wednesday a two-week ban on public protests issued by the police, a ruling hailed as a brave stand by the courts in the face of threats to the judiciary from President Robert Mugabe. Judge Priscilla Chigumba, who was deciding a case brought by political activists, said the official police notice issued last week after some of the worst public violence in two decades was invalid, and therefore suspended. Mugabe's opponents have become emboldened in the last two months by rising public anger over economic hardships including severe cash shortages, high unemployment and delays in payment of public workers. Lawyer Tendai Biti, a former finance minister who represented the four activists, said the police commander who issued the notice had no authority and had violated the constitution. After the ruling, Biti told reporters Chigumba had issued "a brave judgment that asserts the independence of the courts." On Saturday, 92-year-old Mugabe accused judges of being reckless in allowing anti-government demonstrations that later turned violent. (Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Ed Cropley)