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Zimbabwe Opposition Leader Out on Bail - 2003-06-20

The Zimbabwe High Court has freed opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on bail after two weeks in custody for allegedly advocating the forcible removal of President Robert Mugabe.

Granting Mr. Tsvangirai bail, Judge Susan Mavangira said she had taken into consideration that he is already on trial for treason. This is a reference the trial in which Mr. Tsvangirai and two senior members of his party are alleged to have plotted to assassinate President Mugabe.

The judge said that although the state had opposed bail, she made the conclusion to grant bail of over $12,000, with appropriate conditions. She said that due to the seriousness of the charges against Tsvangirai, and the high inflation in Zimbabwe, she did not feel that the amount was excessive.

Mr. Tsvangirai was also ordered to surrender the title deeds to property to partly guarantee the bail. As part of the bail conditions, Mr. Tsvangirai must stop making statements that advocate the removal of the president or government by violent or unlawful means.

Mr. Tsvangirai was arrested and charged with treason on June 6 following a widely observed five-day general strike that ground Zimbabwe business to a halt. Marches that were supposed to happen at the same time as the strike failed to materialize in the face of a massive security presence on the streets of urban centers.

The government says the failed demonstrations were meant to remove Mr. Mugabe from power. Mr. Tsvangirai's opposition Movement for Democratic Change says they were meant to force President Mugabe to the negotiating table to discuss the country's worsening political and economic crisis. Just before his arrest, Mr.Tsvangirai vowed that his party would continue with its protest actions.

Meanwhile Mr. Tsvangirai's treason trial resumed Monday after a two-week adjournment. If they are found guilty, Mr. Tsvangirai and his two co-defendants, Welshman Ncube and Renson Gasela, could face the death penalty.