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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

ZIMBABWE: Tsvangirai remains in jail while awaiting bail

JOHANNESBURG, 13 June 2003 (IRIN) - Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), will spend another weekend in prison while he awaits a decision on his bail application.

Tsvangirai was arrested last Friday on a second round of treason charges in two years and was brought to court in leg irons and prison clothing on Tuesday to be formally charged.

His legal team, which includes South African human rights lawyer George Bizos, who once defended Nelson Mandela, successfully argued for the removal of the leg irons and that he be allowed to wear civilian clothing.

By Friday lunchtime, however, a decision had still not been made and court was adjourned for the weekend, MDC spokesman Nkanyiso Maqeda told IRIN.

"The judge said she will pass judgement [on the bail application] 'sometime next week'," Maqeda said. "He has now gone back to remand prison. He is in high spirits and he realises that what he is suffering is not unique to himself."

The charges stem from the MDC-organised week of anti-government protests and stayaways. Tsvangirai, MDC secretary-general Welshman Ncube and MP Renson Gasela already face treason charges relating to an alleged plot to "eliminate" President Robert Mugabe ahead of last year's presidential elections.

Treason carries the death penality in Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, a number of other MDC leaders arrested in a government crackdown on anti-government protests are still in custody, including Getrude Mthombeni, member of the national executive, and Abraham Mdlongwa, MDC chairman for Bulawayo.

The official The Herald newspaper reported Mugabe as telling a rally this week that the protest marches were declared illegal by the High Court and the government could not fold its hands while the MDC defied the law.

"We hope they have learnt their lesson. If they haven't they will learn it the hard way ... the harder way," Mugabe was quoted as saying.

Following an urgent meeting of its national executive committee on Thursday, the MDC vice-president, Gibson Sibanda, issued a statement calling on the party's supporters to remain calm.

In a related development, the Congress of South African Trade Unions on Friday condemned the arrests of MDC leaders and urged South African President Thabo Mbeki to pressure the Zimbabwean government to "apply the principles of good governance in that country and end the abuse of human rights".

Tsvangirai is a former secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.


Themes: (IRIN) Governance



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