Tsvangirai taken to court in shackles

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The Independent Online

The imprisoned Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was taken to court in handcuffs and leg-irons yesterday to apply for bail on a new round of treason charges.

The hearing was delayed by a dispute over whether he would be allowed to wear his own clothes or be made to wear prison uniform for the court appearance. Defence lawyers protested, saying the state was making an effort to "dehumanise and belittle" the opposition leader, and the judge allowed Mr Tsvangirai to change into a suit and tie. The case was adjourned until today.

Mr Tsvangirai was arrested on Friday after five days of anti-government strikes and protests organised by his Movement for Democratic Change party. Treason charges carry a possible death sentence.

On Tuesday, a magistrate had ordered that Mr Tsvangirai be held in custody until 10 July but also ordered the prosecution to take him before a senior judge to seek bail.

Mr Tsvangirai and two other opposition officials are already facing treason charges over an alleged plot two years ago to assassinate President Robert Mugabe. They deny those charges and say they were framed by the government. The new charges against Mr Tsvangirai centre on two political rallies last month at which the state claims he urged supporters to take to the streets to oust the President.

The former trade unionist has been increasingly vocal in his call for Zimbabweans to oppose Mr Mugabe's 23-year rule. He is blamed for the country's worst crisis since independence in 1980. Foreign aid, investment and loans have dried up amid political violence, human rights abuses and the seizure of white-owned farms. (AP)