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Zimbabwe Human Rights Activists Freed on Bail


A top human rights activist and 14 others were freed on bail Wednesday after a judge reversed her decision to send them back to the prison where they said they had been tortured.

Fifteen political activists re-arrested on Tuesday have been freed from prison after the court granted them bail early Wednesday.

Three more remain under police custody in a hospital in Harare where they are being treated for injuries sustained in while being detained.

Harare Magistrate Catherine Chimanda on Tuesday revoked bail for human rights advocate Jestina Mukoko and 17 others, saying that prosecutors had formally charged them in a terrorism case. The announcement ignited international outrage from human rights groups and other governments who called the charges baseless.

The group, which includes members of Morgan Tsvangirai's former opposition party that joined a coalition government in February, faces charges stemming from an alleged plot to overthrow President Robert Mugabe.

MDC general secretary Tendai Biti at a news conference on Wednesday demanded the release of all the political prisoners.

The Movement for Democratic Change, joined Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party in a unity government in February to try to address the country's economic and political crises, but the partnership has been strained.

Biti also said that if the list of outstanding matters from the political agreement continue to be breached by ZANU PF beyond Monday, the party would refer this to its national council on May 17.

Beside the issue of the release of the human rights activists, the MDC is also asking for the review of the posts of central bank governor and the attorney general.

Biti said the MDC has "an excellent relationship" with South African President Jacob Zuma and hoped that the new era in South Africa would bode well for Zimbabwe.

Political analysts say if ZANU-PF continues to breach the political agreement, the MDC council is likely to demand that this be referred back to the Southern African Development Community which mediated the establishment of an inclusive government.

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