Zimbabwe opposition leader Tendai Biti released on President’s orders
- Tendai Biti had appeared in court on Thursday and was to be charged with stoking post-election violence.
- Biti's People’s Democratic Party had formed an election alliance with Nelson Chamisa’s MDC.
- He had sought asylum in neighboring Zambia on Wednesday but was deported back to Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe’s former finance minister and opposition leader Tendai Biti has been released after President Emmerson Mnangagwa intervened.
According to Mnangagwa, unity, peace and dialogue are more crucial for Zimbabwe’s history than arresting and intimidating political rivals.
“Equally important, however, is an adherence to the rule of law. I repeat – no one is above the law. Thus due to the serious nature of the allegations of incitement, due process will continue,” Mnangagwa said on Twitter.
He urged all political parties to desist from all forms of incitement to violence, and to operate within the framework of the law.
The President further called on Zimbabweans to reconcile saying peace is paramount.
Tendai Biti had appeared in court on Thursday and was to be charged with stoking post-election violence.
Biti’s People’s Democratic Party had formed an election alliance with Nelson Chamisa’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
He had sought asylum in neighboring Zambia on Wednesday but was deported back to Zimbabwe in a move condemned by the United States.
He was also charged with falsely and unlawfully announcing results of the July 30 election, which Chamisa rejected as fraudulent and is set to challenge in the Constitutional Court on Friday.
If found guilty, Biti could face up to 10 years in jail, a cash fine or both. He was released on bail and will appear in court again on Friday.
“It’s been an ordeal, but we survive. We live to fight another day, I am glad to be home,” Biti told reporters soon after his release.
The United States said it was concerned about reports of detentions, beatings and other abuses targeting opposition activists.
It singled out the case of Tendai Biti and signaled that Zambia could face consequences for its role in handing him back.
“We will be discussing this matter with Zambia’s leaders and reviewing certain aspects of our cooperation with the Zambian government,” the State Department said in a statement.
UNHCR said it would be a serious violation of international law if Zambian authorities had handed Tendai Biti over despite a court order to the contrary.
His lawyer said the court order had been issued by the Zambian High Court.
The European Union, Australia and Canada also said they were “deeply disturbed by continuing reports that opposition supporters are being targeted by members of the Zimbabwean security forces”.
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