Zimbabwe govt reaches deal on political detainees

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Harare - The new Zimbabwe government has agreed on how to deal with the contentious issue of political detainees, says Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Addressing a press conference at his Munhumutapa office on Wednesday, Mr Tsvangirai said it was agreed that detainees who had been formally charged would be released on bail while those not formally charged so far would be released unconditionally.

He, however, expressed disappointment at the way the implementation of the agreement had progressed as no person had been released to date.

"The principals to the Global Political Agreement, namely myself, President Robert Mugabe and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, last week agreed that all political detainees who had been formally charged with a crime should be released on bail and those who have not been charged should be released unconditionally," he said.

He accused the Attorney-General's Office of frustrating the process despite an agreement between President Mugabe's Zanu-PF party and the two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) factions led by him and Mr Mutumbara on the matter.

"Rather than allowing the judicial process to take its course with regard to the granting of bail, the AG's Office is will-fully obstructing the release of all detainees by abusing the appeal process and this must stop forthwith," he said.

The Prime Minister said it was "only a matter of time" but confidently added that "the detainees will be released".

Regarding Mr Tsvangirai acting as surety for bail application by MDC Treasurer Roy Bennett, he said there was nothing wrong with that as the surety was "just a letter".

"I did not interfere with the due process on whether or not he should be granted bail," he said.

Mr Bennett, who is the nominee for Deputy Agriculture minister in the all-inclusive government, and human rights activist Jestina Mukoko are some of the detainees who were arrested on political grounds.