Monday, 18 February 2019

I WILL APPEAL, SAYS BITI


A Zimbabwean magistrate has sentenced prominent opposition politician Tendai Biti to seven days in jail, but has given him the option of paying a $200 (£154) fine to avoid imprisonment.

The magistrate earlier convicted Mr Biti of violating electoral legislation by declaring opposition candidate Nelson Chamisa the winner of last year's heavily disputed presidential poll, preempting an official announcement that President Emmerson Mnangagwa had won.

The sentence is relatively lenient, but Mr Biti said he would appeal against his conviction.

He said the charges were part of an attempt to crush the opposition. Biti's lawyer Doug Coltart described Monday's conviction as a "travesty, and said it remained "open to challenge."

MDC leader Nelson Chamisa, who was in court, said the conviction "casts a very dark shadow on our politics".

Zimbabwe was thrown into chaos following the elections, the first in the country's history not to feature former president Robert Mugabe following his resignation in the wake of a brief military takeover in November 2017.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa had promised not to repeat the rigging and intimidation that characterised previous votes, but delays in announcing results enraged the opposition and led to street demonstrations.

Mnangagwa, Mugabe's successor at the head of ruling party ZANU-PF, was later declared the winner according to the official results, but the MDC claims the election was rigged.

Biti fled the country for neighbouring Zambia at the height of the poll tensions but was returned to Zimbabwe despite seeking asylum, sparking an international incident.

The international community has urged Mnangagwa to guarantee the safety of Biti, who was the internationally-respected finance minister in Zimbabwe's 2009-2013 power-sharing government.


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