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opposition demands release of detained activists
Farisai Gonye, ZimOnline
May 19, 2007
HARARE - Zimbabwe's main
opposition party on Friday launched a defiance campaign to force
President Robert Mugabe's government to release more than 30 party
activists who were arrested last March.
Tendai Biti, the secretary
general of the Morgan Tsvangirai-led Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) party, said the opposition will soon take to the streets to
demand the release of its activists who have been languishing in
remand prison in Harare over the past two months.
The government accuses
the MDC activists of being behind a spate of petrol bomb attacks
on police stations and other state institutions that took place
The MDC has dismissed
the charge saying it is a ruse to crack down and paralyse the opposition
ahead of next year's elections.
The street marches could
signal the start of a fresh round of confrontation between the government
and the MDC after state security agents last March brutally put
down opposition-led protests in Harare.
Biti said the MDC campaign,
dubbed "Free Them Now", was also meant to ratchet up pressure
on Mugabe to stop the crackdown on the opposition and civic groups
that began last March.
The opposition party
will also take the campaign to the Southern African Development
Community (SADC) as well as the African Union to demand that the
arrested activists be immediately released.
will have processions, marches, and several forms of protests to
highlight our demands that these activists be released. We are prepared
to pay with our lives for our freedom and the freedom of our detained
comrades," said Biti.
He added: "We are
also going to take the campaign to the African Commission where
we are going to file applications for these cases to be heard. We
will approach SADC, the SADC Parliamentary Forum, the African Union
and the rest of the international community."
The MDC launched
a trust fund headed by academic and former University
of Zimbabwe Vice-Chancellor Gordon Chavhunduka to raise funds
for the families of the jailed activists.
"The charges (against
the MDC activists) are totally trumped up to ensure that (government)
cripples and paralyses the MDC. Even if the SADC mediation process
brings a positive outcome, the party is not in a physical condition
to launch and sustain a political campaign," said Biti.
Biti was referring to
efforts by South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki who was last March
appointed by the regional Southern African Development Community
(SADC) to mediate in the crisis in Zimbabwe.
Mugabe, who is facing
his biggest electoral challenge against the MDC next year, is forging
ahead with a brutal campaign to neutralize the opposition and civic
groups with state agents for example last week beating up lawyers
who tried to march in Harare to protest against the detention of
their colleagues. - ZimOnline
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