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South Africa in Zimbabwe rights call

South Africa in Zimbabwe rights call



South Africa has urged Zimbabwe to respect the rule of law and rights of citizens, including opposition leaders.

Its call comes after opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and others appeared with injuries in a Harare court, after two days in police detention.{{more}}

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has demanded the immediate release of Tsvangirai and his supporters.

They were arrested when police broke up a rally on Sunday, called to pray over the political and economic crisis.

South Africa, seen as Zimbabwe’s most important neighbour, broke its usual silence on the government in Harare to state its concern.

“South Africa urges the Zimbabwean government to ensure that the rule of law including respect for rights of all Zimbabweans and opposition leaders is respected,” Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad said.

As the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader and the other activists were led away from the Harare court to a hospital for treatment, Mr Tsvangirai condemned their treatment by police.

“It’s a horrible assault. A sadistic attack on defenceless people,” he said.

Twelve of the 50 activists detained have been allowed to stay in hospital overnight for treatment, among them Mr Tsvangirai.

The others were taken back under armed guard late on Tuesday to the court, where they were released into the charge of their lawyers until Wednesday morning, when they will make a further court appearance.

A lawyer for the group, Beatrice Mtetwa, said they would be charged with incitement to violence, the Associated Press news agency reported.

One person was killed when riot police broke up the rally.