Zimbabwean opposition leader in intensive care after arrest
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Morgan Tsvangirai, the main opposition leader in Zimbabwe, is in intensive care after being arrested at a protest rally. Mr Tsvangirai told the BBC that police beat him repeatedly in the head, back, knees and arm and that he lost two pints (one litre) of blood in an attack that seemed intended "to inflict as much harm as they could." William Bango, Mr Tsvangirai's spokesman, said: "He has just had a brain scan because his skull is cracked. He will be here for some time. He is in the intensive care unit." A doctor treating Mr Tsvangirai said his condition was stable and he could be released from hospital at the weekend, as a brain scan revealed that his skull is not cracked. But he added that he had also suffered a broken hand and was "terribly badly bruised".
Mr Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), was arrested at a prayer rally protesting against the policies of Robert Mugabe's government, which has been blamed for the country's severe unemployment and inflation of more than 1700%. Correspondents reported an astonishing number of broken arms among the injuries of the protesters, indicating a very high level of physical violence when the rally was broken up. Zimbabwean police said that the rally violated a government ban on political protests.
|For the struggle, I think it's an inspiration to everyone. There is no freedom without struggle, and there is no freedom without sacrifice.|
Those arrested, many of them bandaged and bruised, appeared in the Harare Magistrates Court on Tuesday but were released when the prosecution apparently failed to appear. Mr Tsvangirai and more than 30 activists were then taken to hospital in a convoy of ambulances, watched by about 300 onlookers outside the courtroom.
Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu said that the injuries had been inflicted when Mr Tsvangirai and others attacked police, and that "killer" weapons had been confiscated from protesters. A witness told the BBC the activists turned on police after one of their number, Gift Tandare, was shot dead at close range in the chest. But Mr Tsvangirai denied attacking the police, saying "if there were any skirmishes, it was nothing to do with me."
|The world community again has been shown that the regime of Robert Mugabe is ruthless and repressive and creates only suffering for the people of Zimbabwe.|
—Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
The violent arrests were condemned by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the European Union, South Africa and the United States. Mr Ban condemned the "reported beating of those leaders in police custody" and said: "Such actions violate the basic democratic right of citizens to engage in peaceful assembly." Mr Blair said: "People should be able to live under the rule of law and they should be able to express their political views without harassment or intimidation or violence." South Africa urged Mr Mugabe's government to "ensure respect for human rights and leaders of various parties".
The US State Department is considering stronger sanctions against Zimbabwe, and the British government is urging European countries to bring in similar measures. United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice issued a statement calling for the "immediate and unconditional release of the opposition activists". She said: "The world community again has been shown that the regime of Robert Mugabe is ruthless and repressive and creates only suffering for the people of Zimbabwe."
Mr Tsvangirai said in an interview from his hospital bed that "there are lots of people who've been subjected to this kind of torture, this kind of brutality by this regime." He continued, "It just shows the extent to which this desperate regime is trying to protect its power." "For the struggle, I think it's an inspiration to everyone. There is no freedom without struggle, and there is no freedom without sacrifice."
- "Mugabe rival in intensive care" — , March 15, 2007
- Peta Thornycroft and David Blair. "Wounded Tsvangirai vows to continue struggle" — , March 14, 2007
- "Unbowed Tsvangirai urges defiance" — , March 14, 2007
- Angus Shaw. "Tsvangirai's Skull May Be Fractured" — , March 14, 2007
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