Mugabe to grant pardons for invaders of white-owned farms

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The Independent Online

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is to pardon the invaders of white-owned farms and those accused of politically-motivated crimes linked to elections this year.

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is to pardon the invaders of white-owned farms and those accused of politically-motivated crimes linked to elections this year.

Britain last night denounced the move, which may reduce Zimbabwe's chances of receiving foreign aid. A Foreign Office spokesman said Britain deplored the decision "to endorse the politically-motivated crimes committed in connection with this year's constitutional referendum and general election".

The pardon excludes perpetrators of murder and rape, but frees from prosecution thousands of supporters of the ruling Zanu-PF party who carried out more than 1,500 land invasions. Many were awaiting trial for manslaughter, assault and damage to property.

In the run-up to February's referendum and June's parliamentary elections, 32 people died in politically-motivated attacks and hundreds had their homes burnt or were assaulted for backing the opposition.

The pardon is a slap in the face to the opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), and to the European Union and other international donors, including Britain. After the June elections the EU, which froze all but humanitarian aid, said it would reconsider only if those guilty of pre-election violence faced due process of law.

The Foreign Office said: "Britain has repeatedly stated that returning to the rule of law should be an essential prerequisite for a return to normal relations with the donor community."

The MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai - who earlier in the day was questioned by police in relation to an investigation into an incitement to violence charge - denounced the pardon, printed in a government gazette on Friday but spotted by legal campaigners only yesterday."Mugabe knows very well that the victims of violence were [supporters of the] MDC. He is giving a blanket amnesty to his supporters," he said.

Mr Tsvangirai, who returned secretly to the country on Monday, presented himself to police for questioning.

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