Expatriates sue over Zimbabwe vote ban

REPRESENTATIVES OF about five million Zimbabweans living abroad have challenged Robert Mugabe's government in the country's highest court over his refusal to let them vote in national elections.

They have been banned from voting in the parliamentary election, scheduled yesterday for 31 March. Mr Mugabe had also barred expatriates from participating in the 2002 presidential elections, because of their suspected sympathies for the opposition.

The foreign-based Zimbabweans hope the action in the Supreme Court in Harare will enable them to reclaim the democratic rights they have been denied, and have an influence on the poll.

The number of Zimbabweans living abroad is believed at least to equal that of registered voters in the country. Human rights lawyers said the legal action would highlight constitutional abuses by Mr Mugabe. Beatrice Mtetwa, a human rights lawyer, said she had filed an application on behalf of the London-based Diaspora Vote Action Group seeking to overturn the "illegal and unconstitutional" decision to bar Zimbabweans abroad from voting.

Mr Mugabe's government recently said it could not send officials to register Zimbabweans living in Europe, because of EU travel sanctions. But Mrs Mtetwa said the sanctions covered only senior political leaders and that registration and voting could take place at Zimbabwean diplomatic missions.

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