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Zimbabwe Drops Treason Charge Against Opposition Leader


The Zimbabwe government has dropped treason charges against Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the country's main opposition party.

Officials did not say why they were dropping the charge..The charge stemmed from a June 2003 call for a general strike and mass protests against what the opposition calls President Robert Mugabe's misrule.

Mr. Tsvangirai's lawyer, Eric Matinenga, told VOA the government's case was weak from the beginning. He said he thought the arrest, detention and subsequent release on bail was about keeping the opposition leader unsettled and politically unfocused.

One of Mr. Tsvangirai's bail conditions was that he could not make statements deemed subversive by the authorities. But speaking to reporters, Mr. Tsvangirai said he never saw the requirement as an inhibition to exercising his leadership role.

"I will not change my style of leadership because there are no charges around me. We have to of course change our strategies not because we have no bold leadership but because over the last five years we have tried a lot of options and those options have not been successful," he said.

When he was arrested for organizing protests against the government, Mr. Tsvangirai, head of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), was on trial for another treason case in which it was alleged he plotted to assassinate President Robert Mugabe and stage a coup.

The High Court in Harare found Mr. Tsvangirai not guilty of those charges. The state appealed that decision to the Supreme Court but the Attorney General's office later withdrew the appeal. Treason carries the death sentence in Zimbabwe.

During his news conference, Mr. Tsvangirai also discussed President Mugabe's latest rejection of talks with the opposition. President Mugabe recently said the MDC had no right to say they wanted to be partners with the ruling Zanu-PF party in government.

Mr. Tsvangirai said the MDC does not seek a government of national unity but talks aimed at ending the political and economic crises facing Zimbabwe.

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