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Zimbabwe Frees Opposition Figure; Tsvangirai Ordered Held Another Month - 2003-06-10

In Zimbabwe's courts Tuesday, the state released Welshman Ncube, secretary general of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. He had been questioned Monday in connection with accusations of treason. But the leader of the opposition, Morgan Tsvangirai, was ordered held for another month.

After his lawyers paid a visit to Zimbabwe's attorney general in Harare Tuesday, Welshman Ncube was released after spending a night in police cells.

One of Mr. Ncube's lawyers, Innocent Chagonda, told reporters that his client had signed a statement in connection with the allegations of treason but had not been formally charged.

Mr. Chagonda added that he did not know why Mr. Ncube had been released without charge.

But the news was not as good for the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai. Harare's lower court ordered him held in custody for another month on charges of treason for inciting protests aimed at bringing President Robert Mugabe to the negotiating table.

Lawyers for Mr. Tsvangirai said they would ask for bail but have been told to wait until Wednesday to formally request his release from police custody.

Scores of opposition supporters had begun to gather outside the High Court Tuesday, in anticipation of seeing Mr. Tsvangirai. But he remained in a prison on the outskirts of Harare.

Mr. Tsvangirai is the first person in Zimbabwe's history to be charged with treason twice.

In the first treason charge, he and two MDC colleagues are accused of plotting to assassinate President Robert Mugabe. All three men deny the charge. The crime of treason in Zimbabwe carries the death sentence.