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Zimbabwe's Deputy Opposition Leader Gains Freedom - 2003-04-07

After eight days in Zimbabwe police cells, and numerous court delays, the vice president of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change has been released on bail.

The deputy opposition leader, Gibson Sibanda, was cheered and mobbed by supporters in court in Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo.

He was released on $18,000 bail, one of the highest amounts ever required by the court. He must report to police twice a week, and had to surrender his travel documents.

Mr. Sibanda is charged with violating the constitution by helping to organize a general strike, which paralyzed Zimbabwe's commerce and industry last month.

The hearing on Mr. Sibanda's release was first scheduled for last Thursday, but the magistrate failed to appear in court. Legal experts have condemned the delays as political harassment.

As Mr. Sibanda was emerging from the court, police detained Paul Themba Nyathi, a member of parliament and spokesman for the opposition.

Police did not immediately give a reason for his arrest.

Like Mr Sibanda, Mr Nyathi is a veteran nationalist and was detained during the colonial era.