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Mugabe poll rival detained again

Tsvangirai
Tsvangirai: Vows to win the election "even from the grave"  


HARARE, Zimbabwe (CNN) -- Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe's election rival has been detained for the second time in three days.

Morgan Tsvangirai was temporarily detained by police on Wednesday morning on charges of holding an illegal gathering.

Tsvangirai, the presidential candidate for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party, was released after 30 minutes.

He was detained while holding a hearing for his MDC party in Harare.

On Monday Tsvangirai was arrested and charged with high treason in connection with an alleged assassination plot against Mugabe.

He was later released, although on Tuesday two other MDC officials were also charged with high treason.

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The MDC has been under intense scrutiny ahead of upcoming presidential elections scheduled for March 9 and 10.

Tsvangirai has vowed to continue campaigning and has described Monday's charge as a "conspiracy to undermine my political image in the country."

Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe for 22 years -- 16 years as its president -- faces a stiff challenge from Tsvangirai.

Speaking at a campaign rally outside Harare recently, Mugabe called Tsvangirai a "stooge of the British."

The decision to press charges against Tsvangirai and the MDC's secretary-general Welshman Ncube and leading politician Renson Gasela, has been met with condemnation by the international community.

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said proof had yet to be provided that Tsvangirai and his two aides were engaged in treasonous activities.

Boucher, speaking in Washington on Tuedsay, said: "This appears to be another blatant example of President Mugabe's increasingly authoritarian rule and his government's apparent determination to discredit, intimidate and repress the opposition in the approach to the presidential election."

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said the charges "lack credibility."

He threatened to ask the Commonwealth to withdraw its election observers if Tsvangirai is imprisoned before the elections.

Lovemore Madhuku, head of the National Constitutional Assembly, a civic group that helped defeat a government-backed constitutional referendum in 2000, said: "They are not real charges. I don't think in the real world you can charge people with treason and then let them go free."

He described the charges as "an act of desperation"

He said: "If they were convinced of winning the election, they would not do this."

British Foreign Minister Jack Straw has said: "Coming just days before the presidential elections, it looks like yet another attempt by the Mugabe regime to obstruct the conduct of the election and the ability of the people of Zimbabwe to choose, freely and fairly, who should lead them."

The treason allegations stem from a videotape in which Tsvangirai is said to be seen talking with members of a lobbying firm, Dickens and Madson, about "eliminating" Mugabe.

Ari Ben Monashe
Lobbyist Ari Ben Monashe: "Tsvangirai approached us"  

Tsvangirai contends he was pushed in the meeting in Montreal to discuss certain subjects and use certain words so the tape could then be altered by his political foes.

Ncube and Gasela are said to have attended an earlier meeting with Dickens and Madson in London.

The man behind the videotape, former Israeli intelligence officer, Ari Ben Monashe, has denied that he himself had prompted talk of eliminating President Mugabe, to trap Tsvangirai.

"It wasn't a sting," said Monashe, who is now being paid by the Zimnbabwean government.

"We did not draw him into this, we did not do anything to have him approach us, we did not approach him, he came to us.

Asked by ITN if this was to kill Robert Mugabe, Monashe smiled and shrugged and replied: "Obviously that was his purpose, yes."



 
 
 
 





RELATED STORIES:
• Mugabe opponent on treason charge
February 26, 2002
• More 'Mugabe plot' charges filed
February 26, 2002
• Journalist defends Tsvangirai tape
February 26, 2002
• Mugabe birthday address ridicules EU's sanctions
February 21, 2002
• EU observers leave Zimbabwe
February 20, 2002

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