Newsflash: Zimbabwe opposition kingpin Tendai Biti charged with inciting violence, granted bail

MDC Alliance co-principal Tendai Biti was granted bail at the Harare Magistrate Court on Thursday evening.

See news about the buildup to Biti's court appearance here:

Opposition politician Tendai Biti, who was attempting to flee to Zambia, was denied asylum in the neighbouring country, forcing him to return to Harare where he is facing charges of inciting violence that resulted in six civilians killed and several injured.

Biti appeared before a Harare Magistrate looked weary after a long night spent at the Zimbabwe/Zambian border and travelling back to Harare. The atmosphere at the court was tense amid speculation as to whether the opposition leader was going to be released or remanded in custody.

US and European Union diplomats in both Zimbabwe and Zambia were intervening late on Wednesday to try to prevent Biti and his colleagues from being deported.

Biti, who is being charged with inciting violence and his declaration of presidential results, was released on $5,000 bail paid to the clerk of court. Further, his bail conditions included surrendering his passport and the title deeds of one of his properties, and he must report to the police twice a day between 06:00 and 09:00 and 15:00 and 18:00.

One of his lawyers, Denford Halimani, said after the court hearing:

Biti has granted bail by consent; some of the terms include not to interfere with witnesses, resides at the given address and not to address any political rally or press conference pending determination or finalisation of this matter.”

The United Nations expressed concern over the matter of the opposition leader being unable to seek refuge in Zambia and having been forcibly returned to Zimbabwe.

Refoulement, or forcibly returning refugees and asylum seekers to their country of origin, is a serious violation of international refugee law,” the UN said.

Halimani explained that Biti’s charges pertain to the contravention of section 66 of the country’s electoral act related to the declaration of unofficial results.

Biti’s case will resume on Friday at the same court. DM