Second Zimbabwe opposition leader arrested for treason

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The Independent Online

Zimbabwean police arrested a second opposition leader on treason charges yesterday while Morgan Tsvangirai, the head of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), was ordered by a Harare judge to remain in jail.

Welshman Ncube, the secretary general of the opposition movement, was arrested at the High Court yesterday after handing himself in. Already accused of treason with Mr Tsvangirai from an earlier case, he faces new charges over his role in calling for last week's national strikes against the government.

Mr Tsvangirai has been in custody since Friday, when he was arrested and charged with treason for calling the five-day strike, which virtually shut down the embattled southern African country.

Mr Tsvangirai was brought to court yesterday. He is already on trial for allegedly plotting to assassinate the President, Robert Mugabe.

Mr Tsvangirai's continued incarceration comes after Mr Mugabe said that he would teach his rival a lesson and "blow him away like a fly". Mr Mugabe saidat the weekend that Mr Tsvangirai was being "naive by thinking he could become president through protest marches while security forces stand by and watch".

President Mugabe used an unprecedented show of force to prevent MDC supporters from demonstrating in the streets last week and has repeatedly warned businesses that participated in the strike that they will be shut down.

In the new treason charge, Mr Tsvangirai is being accused of addressing rallies calling on Zimbabweans to march to State House, President Mugabe's official residence, to remove him from office. Mr Ncube faces similar charges because of statements he made urging his party's supporters to "topple" Mr Mugabe through street protests.

Both opposition leaders deny the charges, saying they urged their party faithful to hold only peaceful protests in line with the constitution, and to voice their anger at the Mugabe regime's mismanagement of Zimbabwe.

The government outlawed last week's protests by invoking draconian security laws. The treason charges carry a mandatory death penalty.