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Zimbabwe:  Opposition Leader Tsvangirai Seeks Bail - 2003-06-11

After many delays, a bail hearing for the leader of Zimbabwe's major opposition party got under way in Harare. Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai is seeking bail, after being charged with treason in connection with last week's general strike and anti-government protests.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has been in prison since Friday. When police brought him into the High Court Wednesday, he was dressed in flimsy prison clothes and shackled in leg irons and handcuffs.

At his lawyer's request, Judge Susan Mavhangira allowed Mr. Tsvangirai, who has not been convicted of a crime, to change into civilian clothes for the bail hearing.

Tuesday, a magistrate formally charged the MDC leader with one count of treason for his role in last week's protests and ordered that he remain in prison until July 10.

The state has opposed Mr. Tsvangirai's request for bail, saying that treason is a serious offense, and that he is already facing another treason charge.

Mr. Tsvangirai, along with two other members of the opposition, is accused of plotting to assassinate President Robert Mugabe before last year's presidential election.

The defense said Mr. Tsvangirai should be released on bail as the charges against him are without foundation. George Bizos, the lead attorney for the defense, said at no time has the opposition leader called for revolt. He said the state had decided to arrest the MDC leader in order to silence him.

The defense will continue presenting its case Thursday.