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Zimbabwe Bars Opposition From Attending EU Meeting


Zimbabwe's youngest opposition member of parliament, Nelson Chamisa, was assaulted yards from the departure lounge at Harare International Airport early Sunday as he was checking in for a flight to Brussels. He is now in the hospital with a cracked skull. Peta Thornycroft in Harare reports.

Chamisa, the 28-year-old spokesman for Morgan Tsvangirai's faction of the Movement for Democratic Change, MDC , was due to attend a European Union-African Caribbean Pacific parliamentary forum in Brussels, which opens Monday.

Members of President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu PF party have left Zimbabwe to attend the meeting.

Also arrested at the Harare airport was Arthur Mutambara, president of an MDC faction who was on his way to South Africa. The arrest took place Saturday, along with that of two senior opposition activists, Sekai Holland and Grace Kwinjeh. Both sustained injuries a week ago while in police custody and wanted to travel to South Africa to seek medical treatment.

An MDC official said Chamisa was attacked by a group of eight young men, one of whom wore a military-style olive green shirt, who were riding in unmarked cars. Scores of passengers and relatives of those flying to London were said to have witnessed the attack.

Chamisa was beaten at a police station a week ago after he was arrested at a banned rally in Harare's Highfield township, and spent three days in hospital for injuries to the back of his head and body.

A member of parliament, Pearson Mangofa, who drove Chamisa to the airport, told reporters, "Nelson was walking from my car, parked at the entrance to the departure lounge, when these guys attacked him. I counted eight of them, and I saw one holding a metal bar. I didn't see them beating him as I was negotiating about parking my vehicle for a few minutes."

He said Samosa was unconscious when he returned. With the help of bystanders, he said he put Samosa into his car and drove him to the hospital. "It was the most shocking thing," he said.

Speaking from his home Sunday, Tsvangirai, who founded the the MDC and is himself recovering from head injuries, a broken arm and body bruising he sustained a week ago while in police custody, said he was looking for help from neighboring governments. He said in a telephone interview from his home, "I am frantically trying to link up with SADC [Southern African Development Community] ambassadors to ask them to restrain a fellow member state from the bloodletting, which goes against universal conflict resolution principles."

Welshman Ncube, founding secretary-general of the MDC, has appealed to the European Union not to allow the Zanu PF delegation to attend the Brussels meeting after the opposition delegates were prevented from attending.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, said in a written statement the United States holds President Mugabe "personally responsible" for the arrets and beatings and called on him "to allow all Zimbabweans the right to live without fear and to fully participate in the political process."