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Zimbabwe opposition leader Biti charged with role in post-election violence

HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe’s former finance minister and opposition leader Tendai Biti appeared in court on Thursday facing charges over his role in violence linked to post-election unrest.

FILE PHOTO: Lawyer Tendai Biti, former finance minister, speaks to journalits after a two-week ban on public protests issued by the police was struck down, outside Zimbabwe’s High Court in the capital Harare, September 7, 2016. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo/File Photo

Six people were killed last week in an army crackdown on protests against the victory by Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ruling ZANU-PF party.

Biti, whose People’s Democratic Party had formed an election alliance with opposition leader Nelson Chamisa’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), sought asylum in neighboring Zambia on Wednesday but 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, which was set at $5,000. 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.

Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Writing by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by Andrew Roche

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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