Harare (AFP) - Zimbabwe's high court on Wednesday ordered the release on bail of protest leader Promise Mkwananzi ahead of mass anti-government demonstrations planned later this week.
Mkwananzi, one of the most prominent activists campaigning for President Robert Mugabe to step down, was arrested during protests on August 26 and charged with public violence.
"He was given $100 bail," his lawyer Tonderai Bhatasara told AFP. "He was told to surrender his passport and to report at the police law and order section every Friday."
Mkwananzi, spokesman for the pressure group Tajamuka (We are agitated), has called for a national strike to pile pressure on Mugabe and the ruling ZANU-PF party.
The 92-year-old president has vowed to end a wave of recent protests against his regime, last weekend warning marchers that they were "playing a dangerous game".
Further rallies are planned for Saturday, despite a police ban on demonstrations in the capital Harare.
"Much depends on what protests take place... but there's likely to be deployment of public order policing and the use of teargas and possibly rubber bullets," Piers Pigou, of the International Crisis Group, told a briefing in Johannesburg.
"I think a big danger is if we see the deployment of ZANU-PF youths to take on (protesters) either in preparation for coming into town or indeed in central Harare."
The Tajamuka group also said Wednesday that another of its activists, actor Sylvanos Mudzvova, was being treated in hospital after being abducted, beaten up by assailants and dumped outside the city.
"Six men forced their way into his house," said Denford Ngadziore, a member of Tajamuka.
"He was found after nearly five hours. He is being treated for head, rib and leg injuries.
"We suspect it's ZANU-PF people who have been targeting Tajamuka activists. The regime has scaled up its violence against opponents."
The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum said it had received reports that suspected ZANU-PF supporters were attacking people believed to have joined anti-government protests.
"The perpetrators were moving door-to-door in some cases forcing entry into victims' houses," the forum said in a statement, adding four victims had been beaten with barbed wire whips and thick sticks.
Street protests have surged in Zimbabwe over recent months, triggered by worsening economic problems and growing opposition to Mugabe, who has ruled since 1980.