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Zimbabwe’s first lady denies assault, says she was attacked

South African model Gabriella Engels, allegedly assaulted by Zimbabwe First Lady Grace Mugabe, looks on during a press conference at the civil rights organization AfriForum in August.

PHILL MAGAKOE/AFP/Getty Images

South African model Gabriella Engels, allegedly assaulted by Zimbabwe First Lady Grace Mugabe, looks on during a press conference at the civil rights organization AfriForum in August.

JOHANNESBURG — Representatives of Zimbabwe’s first lady say a young woman who accused her of assault was the aggressor, allegedly attacking Grace Mugabe with a knife while drunk, according to a court document filed in South Africa.

The court papers denying any wrongdoing by Mugabe were submitted Aug. 17 by Zimbabwean diplomats on behalf of Mugabe, who was granted diplomatic immunity by South Africa despite calls for her prosecution in the alleged attack on the woman in a Johannesburg hotel on Aug. 13.

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The Associated Press obtained a copy of the court document from AfriForum, a group representing 20-year-old Gabriella Engels, who said she suffered head wounds while being whipped with an extension cord by Grace Mugabe.

Grace Mugabe went to see her sons in a hotel suite because they were ‘‘in trouble with a drunken young woman,’’ says the court document filed by Zimbabwean diplomats.

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‘‘Upon her arrival Ms. Engels, who was intoxicated and unhinged, attacked Dr. Grace Mugabe with a knife after she was asked to leave the hotel room. Security removed Ms. Engels from the hotel suite,’’ according to the court filing.

Engels has said she was in a hotel room with mutual friends of Mugabe’s two sons, who live in Johannesburg, when the first lady burst into the room and assaulted her.

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