Zimbabwe’s former finance minister and opposition leader, People’s Democratic Party, Tendai Biti appeared in court on Thursday facing charges over his role in violence linked on Aug. 1 post-election protests.
Biti had sought asylum in neighbouring Zambia on Wednesday but his bid was rejected and he was deported back to Zimbabwe where he was taken into police custody.
Biti was also charged with falsely and unlawfully announcing results of the election. State prosecutors did not oppose bail.
Six people were killed on Aug. 1 in an army crackdown on protests against the victory by Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ruling ZANU-PF party.
State prosecutors did not oppose bail, which was set at 5,000 dollars.
He was ordered to surrender title deeds to his house and his passport and has been banned from addressing political rallies or news conferences until the case is over.
If found guilty, Biti faces up to 10 years in jail, a cash fine or both.
Speaking in court to lawyers and the media Biti said: “They wanted to abduct me (on Wednesday), I was terrified.”
The post-election turmoil is reminiscent of contested elections during Robert Mugabe’s nearly four decades of rule, fuelling fears it may derail hopes of mending an economy battered by hyperinflation and a lack of foreign investment.
Mnangagwa’s main rival, opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, has accused the government of clamping down on members of his party.
Biti had formed an election alliance with Chamisa’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
The outspoken former finance minister finds himself in almost the same situation he was in 2008 when he was arrested for announcing that the late MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai had won a presidential vote.
Official results later showed Tsvangirai beat ex-president Robert Mugabe but not by enough votes to avoid a
The British embassy in Harare said it was closely following Biti’s case and had spoken to Zimbabwean and Zambian authorities.
“We (and others) are seeking clear assurances from the Zimbabwean authorities that his safety will be guaranteed and constitutional rights fully respected,” the embassy wrote on its Twitter page.
The post-election turmoil is reminiscent of contested elections during the near four-decade rule of Mugabe, who was toppled last November 2017 in a de facto military coup.
He was replaced by his former intelligence and defense chief Mnangagwa, who pledged to hold free and fair elections.
Earlier, Biti’s Zambian lawyer Gilbert Phiri said the Zambian High Court on Wednesday night issued an order to stop Biti’s deportation but Zambian immigration and police refused to accept the court papers.