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Mugabe poll rival bailed

Tsvangirai voluntarily attended the police station
Tsvangirai voluntarily attended the police station  

HARARE, Zimbabwe -- Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has been released on bail after being summoned to a Harare police station in connection with treason charges.

Robert Mugabe's defeated rival in this months' presidential election was forced to pay $1.5 million Zimbabwean ($27,800) and faces a further Z$3 million ($55,600) surety within 24 hours to remain free.

Tsvangirai was charged with high treason last month over an alleged plot to assassinate Mugabe, who has held power in Zimbabwe since the country's independence from Britain in 1980. He faces the death penalty if convicted.

The opposition suffered a further setback when a three-day national strike called by labour unions on Wednesday failed to attract strong support, with as little as 30 percent of businesses closing at one stage.

Commonwealth suspends Zimbabwe. CNN's Robin Oakley reports (March 19)

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Leading African nations examine charges that Zimbabwe's presidential elections were neither free nor fair. CNN's Charlayne Hunter-Gault reports (March 19)

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Wellington Chibebe, Secretary-General of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) blamed a new law and order act for the low turnout.

Meanwhile in a separate criticism a Norwegian team of observers said on Wednesday that supporters of Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) still face beatings and intimidation.

The moves dash hopes of national reconciliation following controversial elections which saw Mugabe extend his 22-year reign by a further six-year term.

When Tsvangirai surrendered voluntarily to Harare's central police station he told CNN: "So much for reconciliation."

The Commonwealth has suspended Zimbabwe's membership for a year on the recommendation of a three-nation review group looking into allegations of intimidation and unfairness in the March 9-11 election.

Despite Mugabe's victory "systematic reprisals" continue against opposition supporters, the Norwegian observer mission said in its final report before leaving.

Kare Vollan, head of the Norwegian team, said in the report: "Numerous cases of assault, beating, torture, looting, arson and at least one killing of a suspected MDC supporter were reported to observers in the first few days after the poll."

A new Public Order and Security Act has been blamed for intimidating would-be strikers unhappy with the presidential poll result.

Critics say the act is draconian, banning public gatherings and imposing penalties of up to 20 years in prison.

Police had declared on Tuesday the strike illegal and accused ZCTU of trying to whip up opposition to Mugabe.

Zimbabwe's labour federation admitted response to the national strike had been patchy.

Most of the country's banks were shut but Secretary-General Chibebe told Reuters he was disappointed with the initial response.

About 55 percent of businesses were affected in the morning, dropping to about 30 percent in the afternoon, he said.

The stay-at-home call by the 200,000-strong ZCTU appeared to have been ignored by many shopkeepers across Zimbabwe.

"The strike stands, despite the fact that businesses that had closed in the morning later opened," Chibebe said.


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