/ 15 January 2009

MDC officials held for police ‘death threat’

Two senior Zimbabwe opposition officials have been arrested on charges of threatening police investigating the shooting of the country’s air force chief, state media said on Thursday.

The two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) officials appeared in court on Wednesday on charges of threatening to kidnap and kill police officers investigating the shooting of Air Marshal Perrance Shiri, the Herald newspaper reported.

Zanu-PF leader Robert Mugabe’s government has labelled the shooting an ”assassination attempt”. The MDC has denied any involvement.

Dumiso Wakatama, mayor of Bindura, and senior party security officer Tongai Jack, were remanded in custody to January 26 after the prosecution appealed against a court decision to grant bail.

The state told the court that the two accused, and another man still at large, had threatened to kill four officers, the newspaper said.

Shiri, a cousin of Mugabe, was shot and wounded in the hand on December 10 in what government officials claimed was part of a build-up of terror attacks against the 84-year-old’s rule.

In recent months, the state has arrested and held dozens of civil and opposition activists accused of recruiting people to undergo military training in Botswana to topple Mugabe.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on authorities to release 32 activists and to disclose the whereabouts of 11 others.

”The continuing detention of the 32 MDC members and rights activists appears to be a clumsy pretext to clamp down on government critics,” HRW Africa director Georgette Gagnon said.

Mugabe and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai signed a power-sharing deal four months ago, but the accord has stalled due to disputes over control of powerful Cabinet posts.

The country’s humanitarian crisis has worsened with nearly half the population needing food aid and a cholera epidemic claiming more than 2 100 lives since August. — Sapa-AFP