MDC leader held as Mugabe flies to answer his critics
POLICE in Harare yesterday reportedly re-arrested Morgan Tsvangirai, the main opposition leader, and detained him for several hours as a defiant President Robert Mugabe left to explain his brutal crackdown to African leaders meeting in Tanzania.
Police stormed the headquarters of Mr Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party mid-morning, just before the opposition leader was due to give a press conference.
The MDC leader - who still has a swollen face following a savage police beating less than three weeks ago - was held incommunicado for several hours before being unexpectedly released to attend a doctor's appointment, an aide said.
"He's OK. He hasn't been beaten up. We don't know if they will pick him up again," said Eliphas Mukonoweshuro, a spokesman for the party.
Riot police with batons sealed off part of central Harare after Mr Tsvangirai's arrest. At least 20 party officials arrested with the opposition leader were still being held late yesterday afternoon. Party lawyers were preparing urgent court papers to try to obtain their release.
Police also arrested dozens of office workers, vendors on the street outside the MDC's Harvest House headquarters, and even the doormen.
"They brought a truck and a bus" to ferry away the arrested, said Tendai Biti, the party's secretary-general.
An unrepentant Mr Mugabe appears to have ordered Mr Tsvangirai's arrest in the face of mounting regional unease over the crisis in Zimbabwe.
The Zimbabwean leader flew out of Harare late yesterday afternoon for what could prove a stormy Southern African Development Community leaders' summit in Tanzania.
Zimbabwean state radio has played down the hastily-convened meeting, saying SADC leaders would be discussing the drought that has affected the region.
But reports say Mr Mugabe is likely to be called upon to justify state brutality towards the MDC and could come under pressure not to stand in presidential elections due next year.
The MDC says it fears Mr Mugabe wants to declare a state of emergency, against advice.
The state has intensified its crackdown against the MDC in the last few days.
Mr Tsvangirai had been due to brief journalists - who themselves are coming under threat from the increasingly-hostile Zimbabwean authorities - on the list of recent abductions.
Last Maengehama, an MDC activist abducted in the capital on Tuesday was found naked and beaten unconscious in rural Mutorashanga district, 50 miles from Harare
Police have accused the MDC of staging "terrorist attacks" after a spate of petrol bombings targeting police stations, a supermarket and a train. The MDC says state agents are behind the attacks.
The crackdown has had the unexpected benefit of uniting the MDC's two feuding factions. Arthur Mutambara, the leader of a breakaway faction, has said he will not stand against Mr Tsvangirai in next year's elections.
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