Senior Zimbabwean opposition Movement for Democratic Change Alliance (MDC-A) figure Tendai Biti was arrested as he tried to flee to neighbouring Zambia to seek asylum, his lawyer said Wednesday.
Biti allegedly faces charges for inciting violence over the disputed result of last week’s elections.
“He was arrested at the Zambian border,” Biti’s lawyer Nqobizitha Mlilo told AFP, adding by text message that he was trying to seek asylum.
BREAKING: Lawyer of Zimbabwean opposition politician #TendaiBiti says Biti has been arrested by Zim police at Zim border with Zambia -where he was seeking political asylum.
Document tweeted seems to indicate what he stands accused of: declaring Chamisa President, public violence pic.twitter.com/v1ZI1c35sH
— Karyn Maughan (@karynmaughan) August 8, 2018
Twenty-seven MDC Alliance supporters were arrested following the deadly violence, which left six people dead and several others nursing life-threatening injuries.
The MDC supporters have since been released on $50 bail.
An affidavit by a detective from the police’s criminal investigations department, circulating on social media shows that the opposition politician is wanted for contravening a section of the Electoral Act, saying he announced election results before the electoral management body, Zimbabwe Election Commission.
The affidavit also read that Biti was wanted in connection for being in possession of dangerous weapons, which he intended to use to destabilise the country.
Biti was the minister of finance in a unity government that was formed after disputed elections in 2008 – and is credited with helping stabilise the economy after years of hyperinflation.
Mlilo said Zimbabwe authorities had been harassing Biti’s mother for three days in an attempt to get her to say where the opposition leader, who is also a lawyer.
“His car has been shot at, ” revealed the lawyer adding that his client’s hands were “clean”.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused Zimbabwe Security Forces and unidentified gunmen of intensifying their crackdown on supporters of the MDC-Alliance in the aftermath of post-election protests in the capital Harare.
“The police, soldiers, and unidentified armed men also beat up and harassed scores of people in Harare over the last few days as they searched for opposition party officials,” said HRW in a Tuesday report.
“With soldiers unleashing violence against ruling party opponents, the veneer of respect for human rights and democratic rule that President Emmerson Mnangagwa claimed is now clearly gone,” said Dewa Mavhinga, Southern Africa director at HRW.
“His administration needs to act quickly to restore its integrity and commitment to the rule of law.”
The rights group documented numerous cases of beatings and harassment by soldiers in several of Harare’s high-density suburbs, including Chitungwiza, Seke, Dzivarasekwa, Glen Norah, Glen View, Kuwadzana, and Highfields.
The soldiers, in groups of four to 10, beat up people in bars and restaurants, accusing them of letting down Mnangagwa because the MDC-Alliance candidate, Nelson Chamisa, won the majority of votes in Harare.
One victim said he was told his beating was for voting for the wrong candidate.
Another victim, an elderly woman, was assaulted by three unidentified armed men with masks in Highfields.
– Additional reporting ANA