A Harare court has released Zimbabwean veteran opposition politician Tendai Biti from the Movement for Democratic Change-Alliance on bail in his first appearance after he was deported from Zambia.
Biti faces charges of public violence and violating section 66(1)(a) of the Electoral Act.
He appeared in the Rotten Row Magistrates Courts on Thursday afternoon where Magistrate Francis Mapfumo released him on $5,000 bail. The State did not oppose bail.
Biti was asked to surrender his passport and report twice daily to the police’s Central Investigations Department.
Arriving at court, he defiantly chanted: "I will keep on fighting, the spirits are so high."
A team of senior Zimbabwean lawyers led by Beatrice Mtetwa has been assembled to defend him.
The opposition politician skipped the border to Zambia on Wednesday morning. His legal team successfully sought an application preventing his extradition but the authorities deported him to Zimbabwe regardless.
Biti was handed over to Zimbabwean authorities at Chirundu border post Thursday morning.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the European Union (EU) have slammed Lusaka's decision to deport Biti.
“UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is gravely concerned about reports of the forced return of a Zimbabwean asylum-seeker by Zambia to his country of origin,” UNHCR said.
The senior member of the opposition MDC Alliance, the UN agency said, had “expressed the intention to seek asylum in Zambia at the border yesterday”.
The UNHCR said his deportation was a serious violation of international refugee law and called on Zambian authorities to investigate the matter urgently.
The EU mission also expressed concern at the continued harassment of opposition politicians by the Zimbabwean government.
“The European Union delegation . . . is deeply disturbed by continuing reports that opposition supporters are being targeted by members of the Zimbabwean security forces,” it said in a statement.
“The Heads of Mission note that MDC Alliance principal and former Zimbabwean Minister of Finance, Mr Tendai Biti, is in the custody of the Zimbabwean authorities after criminal charges were leveled against him.
“The heads of mission urgently calls on the government of Zimbabwe to guarantee the physical integrity and safety of Mr Biti, to ensure that his constitutional and human rights are respected, and that he will be treated in full accordance with the rule of law.”
Zimbabwean police had been hunting for Biti since August 1, when seven people died after the military fired live ammunition at opposition protestors.
MDC Alliance supporters were protesting against delays in the release of voting results by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, which they accuse of colluding with the ruling Zanu-PF.
Emmerson Mnangagwa, the president elect, immediately blamed the opposition for the bloody protests.
“We hold the opposition MDC Alliance and its whole leadership for the disturbance of national peace which was meant to disrupt the electoral process,” Mnangagwa said.
- African News Agency (ANA)