A Zimbabwean court has released 26 opposition party members on bail, including two legislators, after their arrest for allegedly holding an unlawful meeting in Harare, the capital.
Releasing them on $83 bail each on Friday (January 27), presiding magistrate Yeukai Dzuda said the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) members are not a flight risk as they were arrested while in a meeting in a house owned by one of the lawmakers, not in a public space.
According to Zimbabwean law, organisers of public meetings must secure approval from the police first before staging them.
“It is common knowledge that the applicants held a private meeting on private property,” Dzuda said, according to ZimLive, a local publication.
Their arrest on January 14, and detention, Reuters reported, stoked fears of a crackdown on opposition politicians before a crucial election this year.
Among the arrested was a minor, 17, who was released into the custody of her guardian on January 16. CCC leader Nelson Chamisa will once again challenge President Emmerson Mnangagwa five years after losing to the same opponent.
Mnangagwa, whose party ZANU-PF has been in office since 1980, secured 50.8% of the vote, while Chamisa, then leader of MDC-T, got 44.3%. The opposition leader rejected the result and appealed to the court, which confirmed Mnangagwa’s victory.
Reuters cited CCC spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere, as telling journalists outside court: “This confirms that the arrest was an abuse of process in the first place. All this shows that the regime’s paranoia has reached fever pitch and they notice that they are staring defeat in the face.”