Zimbabwe opposition leader charged with treason

June 20th, 2008 - 11:14 am ICT by IANS  

Johannesburg/Harare, June 20 (DPA) Tendai Biti, an outspoken leader of Zimbabwe’s opposition, has been officially charged with treason in a Harare court. Arrested June 12 at Harare International Airport on arrival from South Africa, Biti was also charged with disseminating false information, slandering the country’s president and undermining morale within the armed forces. He was charged after a week in detention.

If found guilty, he faces the death penalty.

Biti, Secretary General of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, had been in South Africa since early April following Zimbabwe’s disputed election in which President Robert Mugabe lost control of parliament.

Meanwhile, violence continued in Zimbabwe a week before runoff presidential elections, with the discovery of the bodies of four kidnapped political activists, the opposition reported.

According to a report by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the burned remains of the wife of the opposition mayor of Harare was also discovered Thursday.

More than 70 opposition supporters have been killed since the March 29 presidential and parliamentary elections, the opposition has reported. Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party has held the opposition itself responsible for the violence.

US Ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee, speaking in the South African capital Pretoria, said Thursday that Zimbabwe was on the brink of a “bottomless abyss”.

“It is a country on the brink of starvation. It has already fallen off the precipice of economic collapse and is sinking into a seemingly bottomless abyss,” McGee said at the Centre for International Political Studies at the University of Pretoria.

McGee called upon Zimbabwe’s neighbours to put pressure on the regime of long-reigning President Robert Mugabe, saying the problems of Zimbabwe had regional effects, and the solutions should also be regional.

The latest developments came as the UN Security Council was holding an informal meeting on Zimbabwe chaired by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had warned Wednesday that repeated acts of intimidation and arrests of opposition leaders would make Zimbabwe’s runoff presidential elections June 27 less credible unless Harare puts a stop to them.

“The current violence, intimidation and the arrest of opposition leaders are not conducive to credible elections,” Ban said.

“Should these conditions continue to prevail, the legitimacy of the election outcome would be in question.”

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