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Detained Zimbabwean Opposition Leader Makes Court Appearance


The second-ranking figure in Zimbabwe's main opposition party who was arrested three days ago and charged with treason, made his first court appearance Saturday in the capital.

Tendai Biti was brought to a courtroom in Harare in response to a judicial order. Police have said the secretary-general of Zimbabwe's Movement for Democratic Change will be charged with treason, an offense punishable by death.

He is also accused of prematurely announcing the results of the March presidential election, which showed victory for MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai. For doing so, police plan to charge Biti with spreading false information that is harmful to the state.

Police took Biti back into custody following his court appearance. He was first detained Thursday when he returned from South Africa.

The MDC has accused President Robert Mugabe's supporters of repeated attacks of violence and intimidation ahead of the presidential runoff vote due in less than two weeks. The coalition of opposition groups says more than 60 of its workers have been killed since the first round of the presidential election.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and 11 other party officials today were detained again, this time for several hours. They were stopped at a roadblock hours after Mr. Mugabe delivered a speech in which he vowed that his opponents will never gain power.

At a youth rally in Harare Friday, Mr. Mugabe said veterans of Zimbabwe's "liberation war" in the 1970s - the campaign that led to the end of British colonial status in 1980 - have promised to launch a new fight if Mr. Tsvangirai wins the run-off election.

The 85-year-old president labeled his opponent a British puppet, and claimed a Tsvangirai victory would return Zimbabwe to domination by Britain.

In an open letter Friday, 40 African civil society leaders, including former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, called for Zimbabwe's run-off vote to go forward in a peaceful and transparent manner. Several hundred observers from the African Union and southern African countries are expected to monitor the election.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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