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Zimbabwe Opposition Leader Morgan Tsvangirai Free on Bail - 2003-06-20


Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change welcomed the release from jail of the group's leader, Morgan Tsvangirai. The High Court had earlier granted Mr. Tsvangirai bail, after two weeks in custody for allegedly advocating the forcible removal of President Robert Mugabe from office.

Mr. Tsvangirai left Harare Remand Prison Friday afternoon, after posting bail of more than $12,000 and surrendering title deeds to property worth more than $1 million as part of his bail conditions.

In granting Mr. Tsvangirai bail, Judge Susan Mavangira had said she had considered the fact that he is already on trial for treason. Mr. Tsvangirai is being tried along with two senior members of his party, for allegedly plotting the assassination of President Robert Mugabe.

The normally clean-shaven Mr. Tsvangirai looked tired after his two weeks in custody. But he joked with his supporters, saying he now weighs two kilograms more than when he was arrested.

"I must say that I was treated quite fairly, like any other prisoner in the compound, really. I was not molested. This is just vindictiveness on the part of ZANU-PF, and Mugabe in particular," he said. "There is no charge really; it's ridiculous. There is no basis for my arrest. The struggle has just started. My arrest is not going to do anything to it."

An additional condition of Mr. Tsvangirai's bail is that he desist from making statements that advocate the removal of the president or government by violent or unlawful means, or incite his followers to do so.

Mr. Tsvangirai was arrested and charged with treason on June 6 following a widely observed five-day general strike that saw Zimbabwe business grind to a halt.

Marches that were supposed to take place at the same time as the strike, however, failed to materialize in the face of massive security presence on the streets of urban centers.

The government says the failed demonstrations were meant to remove Mr. Mugabe from power. But the Movement for Democratic Change says they were meant to force President Mugabe to the negotiating table to discuss the country's worsening political and economic crisis.

Just before his arrest, Mr. Tsvangirai vowed that his party would continue with its demonstrations.

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