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Zimbabwe's Tsvangirai Detained for Second Time in Three Days


Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has been detained by police for the second time in three days as he tried to campaign in Zimbabwe's presidential runoff election. He was released after two hours. VOA's Scott Bobb reports from out Southern Africa Bureau in Johannesburg.

An official of Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change said its leader and presidential candidate was held for about two hours. When he was released he was told he could not campaign in the area some 40 kilometers south of Zimbabwe's second largest city of Bulawayo.

Tsvangirai and his entourage were detained for nine hours Wednesday as they were traveling to the site of another rally in the region. The state-controlled Herald newspaper Friday quoted a police spokesman as saying his convoy was stopped because one of its vehicles did not have proper documentation.

Tsvangirai (following the first detention) accused security forces of seeking to disrupt his campaign.

"Well, it's all part of the ongoing harassment," he said. "There was an allegation that we addressed an illegal meeting, and I don't how you define an illegal meeting in a campaign. I assume they were under instructions but if they were not then it also means that some of the police officers are compromising their professionalism and behaving in a partisan way, and especially in a disrespectful way, in which the leading candidate is being treated like a common criminal."

Thursday police and government supporters also briefly detained several British and U.S. diplomats. U.S. officials say Zimbabwe's government is trying to intimidate opponents ahead of the runoff, in hopes of securing victory.

The MDC has released a statement saying that security forces have banned rallies in several townships in Harare and accused them of siding with the ruling ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe.

Tsvangirai is to face Mr. Robert Mugabe in a runoff presidential election in three weeks. The runoff was called after he won more votes than Mr. Mugabe in the first round in March but failed to receive a 50 percent majority. The MDC also won a majority of the seats in parliament.

The opposition says since the election more than 60 supporters have been killed, hundreds wounded and thousands have been displaced. Tsvangirai says it is part of a drive to cripple his campaign and scare his supporters from voting.

"The situation has not been normal for us in the MDC. We face so many obstacles," he said. "As I speak all the rallies have been banned; we have had to improvise in terms of how we access the people, and it's a very hostile environment."

Civic groups have called on the Zimbabwean government to end the violence saying if it continues the runoff on June 27 cannot be free and fair.

The Zimbabwean government blames the opposition for the violence in which several of its supporters have been killed.