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Zimbabwe's High Court Removes Ban on Opposition Rally


Zimbabwe's high court on Saturday lifted a ban on a rally for the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), scheduled to take place on Sunday. For VOA, Peta Thornycroft reports from Harare that this is the first rally that the leader of the MDC, Morgan Tsvangirai, planned to attend since the campaign for the run-off election began.

With the pre-poll violence escalating, many voters are worried about Sunday's MDC rally in Harare.

The rally is the opposition's main event before the June 27 run-off between MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe. The MDC says at least 70 of its members have been killed since the first round of elections on March 29, in which Mr. Tsvangirai tallied more votes than Mr. Mugabe, but not enough to avoid a runoff.

People in the street said Saturday they would not go to the rally for fear they would be injured. But that would not stop them from going to the polls to vote for the MDC's Tsvangirai on Friday, they said.

Police have banned a series of opposition gatherings, leading the MDC to say it was being forced to campaign in virtual secrecy.

But Mr. Mugabe Friday denounced MDC claims that his supporters are conducting a campaign of violence and terror ahead of the vote. He told supporters during a rally in the city of Bulawayo Friday the claims are a lie, and said the MDC is making the accusations so they can later discredit the vote.

The 14-nation Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) is sending 380 monitors to Zimbabwe for the vote. Zimbabwe has refused to admit Western observers and ignored Britain's request that international rights officials be allowed into the nation. Mr. Mugabe's government has also slashed the number of Zimbabwean observers who will be on hand for the election to 2,700, according to the Zimbabwe Elections Support Network, which had nearly 10,000 observers for the March election.

Tsvangirai has been detained five times during his campaign and MDC Secretary-General Tendai Biti remains in custody facing a treason charge and other offenses. Biti is accused of leaking results of the March elections prematurely. He faces a death sentence if convicted.

The MDC is to announce on Monday whether it will pull out of the race before Friday's poll. Tsvangirai is reported to be under pressure to pull out in view of the escalating violence. MDC party insiders, however, say they are sure that Morgan Tsvangirai will remain and not pull out.

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