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Treason Charges Dropped Against Zimbabwe Party Leader


A court has withdrawn treason charges against Tendai Biti, secretary-general of the Movement for Democratic Change. Analysts say that while this is a good first sign from a proposed unity government, many other political activists remain in detention.

Tendai Biti was charged with treason after his party narrowly won last year's March election. The charges were based on a document said to be written by Biti, which he denied.

The document appeared to reflect MDC plans for running the country and expressed views more appropriate to a racially exclusive white government. Many Zimbabweans were suspicious about the document, especially because Biti has always supported black majority rule and is a well respected lawyer and senior partner in a large Zimbabwe law firm.

Judge Olivia Mariga told a court in Harare Friday prosecutors were not prepared for the case and that police had improperly arrested Biti last year, effectively dropping the charges against him.

But aside from the judge's ruling on Biti, human rights organizations note there are still about 30 political activists being held in Zimbabwe.

Even so, Biti's followers and others interpreted the judge's ruling as a good sign, coming less than a day after a constitutional amendment was passed enabling formation of a unity government this week.

In the suburbs of the capital, residents said they were pleased that legislators had decided to take part in a unity government.

There were some who worried that any unity government will end up being dominated by President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF Party. An employee of a Harare law firm was even less optimistic about the pending unity government, believing the Movement for Democratic Change Party could have done better in negotiations.

"The two MDC formations I want to believe lost a lot of ground during [the] negotiation period," he said. "They should have stuck to their guns. And I do hope maybe if God can help us once they are in power they should quickly, quickly come with a new constitution and go for fresh elections."

Morgan Tsvangirai will be sworn into office on Wednesday, followed by the two MDC deputy prime ministers, and the Cabinet.


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