8 MDC activists granted bail, as pressure mount on Robert Mugabe

Harare – Eight Zimbabwean political activists out of at least 30 facing charges of terrorism have been granted bail after months in prison, their lawyer said on Sunday, amid reports of mounting pressure from SADC leaders who have tied aid support to release of prisoners and the sacking of discredited officials – the rogue Central Bank Governor Gideon Gono and the militant Attorney General Johannes Tomana.\r\n

Local rights groups say the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) activists were tortured during their detention.

"The court granted eight bail, and two are already out," defence lawyer Alec Muchadehama told Reuters.

A Harare magistrate’s court released two after paid $600 each and surrendered their passports, he said, adding the other six remained in custody as prosecutors want to verify they have no travel documents.

Muchadehama said the two include Fidelis Chiramba, a 72- year-old villager who has been detained for more than 100 days and has accused police of severe torture.

Bennett still in prison

The MDC said it wanted everyone detained on political charges freed, including Roy Bennett whose arrest three weeks ago just before he was to be sworn-in as a junior minister in a new power-sharing government is stoking tensions with President Robert Mugabe

"Our position remains the same. All the detained, including our party’s treasurer-general, Mr Roy Bennett, must be released from custody because they are facing trumped up charges," MDC spokesperson Nelson Chamisa said.

Bennett was granted bail by the High Court last Tuesday, but the state has appealed against it.

Long-time rivals Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC formed a unity government three weeks ago after months of wrangling, with Tsvangirai taking the post of prime minister.

Analysts say the coalition government holds the best hope of ending Zimbabwe’s economic ruin, shown by soaring inflation, food shortages and a humanitarian crisis marked by a cholera outbreak that has killed nearly 4 000 people since August.

– Reuters