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Zimbabwe Police Question Opposition Leader on Alleged Threats to Overthrow President - 2002-07-25

Police in Zimbabwe have questioned opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai about allegations he threatened to overthrow President Robert Mugabe.

Police told Mr. Tsvangirai that he violated a section of Zimbabwe's Public Order and Security Act at a rally in the southern part of the country in May.

Police said they had four witnesses who claim to have heard Mr. Tsvangirai say that President Mugabe would not complete his six years in office. He was also accused of saying that the opposition would not disclose how it was going to "sort President Mugabe out."

A lawyer representing Mr. Tsvangirai said police told him they did not have a tape recording of the alleged speech. Mr. Tsvangirai, in a statement, denied the allegations. He has not been formally charged. But if he is and is then found guilty, the Zimbabwe opposition leader could face up to 20 years in prison.

Several legal analysts in Zimbabwe have said the country's new security laws contravene sections of the Zimbabwe's constitution. Many legal academics and the Law Society of Zimbabwe said the new laws are as bad as, if not worse, than those used by the white Rhodesian government during the colonial era.

Mr. Tsvangirai has frequently been arrested, attacked and charged with a variety of offenses since he formed the Movement for Democratic Change nearly three years ago. The party won nearly half the elected parliamentary seats in the June, 2000, general election.

The most serious charge against him and two of his colleagues is treason. That charge arose out of an Australian-made documentary which said Mr. Tsvangirai was plotting to kill President Mugabe. Treason carries the death sentence in Zimbabwe.

Mr. Tsvangirai has legally challenged the outcome of the presidential elections in which he stood against Mr. Mugabe, who won the disputed poll, giving him another six years in office.