SABC News.com - Zimbabwe frees 21 MDC prisoners:Wednesday 19 December 2012

Zimbabwe frees 21 MDC prisoners

Wednesday 19 December 2012 07:47

Shingai Nyoka

Twenty-one Movement for Democratic Change loyalists have been freed on bail after prolonged detention in a high-profile murder trial.

A Zimbabwe High Court ruled that testimonies implicating the 21 in the 2011 murder of a police officer were weak. The 21 had spent up to 18 months in detention, and while a further three were released earlier. Another five remain behind bars.

Party leader Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai welcomed the group's release but denounced the charge as politically motivated.

Elated MDC members were freed on bail yesterday afternoon to waiting friends and family.

They are part of group dubbed the MDC 29, and are accused of assaulting and stoning to death a police officer last year in a township in the capital Harare.

Case stoked tension in Zimbabwe's coalition and prompted the MDC to appeal to SADC to intervene.

But after 18 months in detention and numerous trial postponements, the state's case against most of the group appears to be crumbling.

"Tafadzwa Billiat, Murder Accused said: "I wasn't there and I know nothing about that case. There was a surprise party for my former manager's young lady, her sister."

The High Court on Monday appeared to agree, questioning the prolonged detention of the group despite the alibis. The group believe they're are being targeted to weaken the MDC party ahead of elections scheduled for next year.

Another Murder Accused Linda Musiyamanje said: "I was at home and I was even surprised but just because I am an MDC activist they arrested me. At first I thought they were going to incarcerate us until the end of the elections."

MDC leader denounced the trial as politically motivated.

Tsvangirai said " There has never been a legal case against you, we know it has been all of persection not prosecution. Even in an inclusive govenrment we find ourselves helpess when our cadres are accused of something, because its a case of selective application of law."

For now the 21 are happily united with their families, but believe their release has come too late. Many have lost their jobs and income and say despite their release true freedom remains elusive.

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