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Zimbabwe High Court Rules Police May Continue To Hold MDC's Biti


Rebuffing days of effort by attorneys for Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change, a high court judge in Harare late Tuesday rejected an application by lawyers seeking the release of MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti, who faces treason charges arising in part from statements he made after March elections regarding their outcome.

Reuters quoted Judge Samuel Kudya as declaring that, "I am not satisfied that the application has demonstrated that what he is calling continued detention is unlawful."

Another high court justice had earlier instructed police to produce Biti for a remand hearing on Tuesday, but he did not appear despite the best efforts of his attorneys.

Biti, a lawyer and considered second in command to MDC founder and presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai, was arrested last week on his arrival at Harare International Airport on treason charges which police have repeatedly told courts they are revising.

Correspondent Irwin Chifera of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe spent the day at the Harare high court where Biti was expected to appear but never materialized.

Also under arrest and seeking release was Eric Matinenga, member of parliament-elect for the Buhera West constituency in Manicaland. He was being held in the Rusape remand prison.

The prominent lawyer was arrested in late May on charges of inciting violence - a charge that has been dismissed by a high court judge. But his lawyers say police continue to disregard that order to grant him bail and continue to trump up further charges against him.

The MDC says that besides Biti and Matinenga at least 2,000 other activists at various levels of the party remain in police custody throughout the country.

Lawyer Trust Maanda, representing Matinenga, told VOA reporter Carole Gombakomba that police continue to hold Matinenga and hundreds other opposition activists unlawfully.

Meanwhile, two leaders of the activist group Women of Zimbabwe Arise remained behind bars Tuesday following the release of 11 members of the group on Monday.

WOZA National Director Jenni Williams and group leader Magodonga Mahlangu were arrested May 28 in a Harare demonstration against violence. The two face charges of causing violence. Williams is also accused of publishing falsehoods and causing disaffection among police.

Williams and Mahlangu were granted bail by a lower court magistrate but the state appealed, saying they were likely to cause "Kenyan-style" violence during the election period.

Amnesty International has designated the two women prisoners of conscience.

London-based WOZA solidarity coordinator Lois Davis told reporter Patience Rusere that this is the longest time the women have ever been held, calling their imprisonment a form of harassment by a government that wants to quell dissent before the election.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...

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