HARARE (Reuters) - A court in Zimbabwe on Tuesday freed on bail 27 opposition supporters arrested last week on accusations of fomenting violence in the aftermath of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s election victory over Nelson Chamisa.
Six people were killed last week in a post-election army clampdown on protests against the result that were reminiscent of the long rule of Robert Mugabe, who was toppled last November in a de factor military coup and replaced by Mnangagwa.
Magistrate Francis Vhitorini granted $50 bail to each of the 27 Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) members, the first to be arrested over last week’s violent protests.
“The court has indicated that it did not consider any of them to be a flight risk. The judgment was so brilliant that we are still trying to process it,” MDC lawyer Denford Halimani said.
Chamisa and his lawyers are expected to announce on Tuesday when they will challenge the results in court. He wrote on Twitter he had gone through evidence from polling stations, which showed he won “emphatically.”
He said figures released by the election commission were “falsified (and) inflated in favor of the outgoing President. We are ready for the inauguration (and) formation of the next (government).”
The MDC has said security forces were abducting its members in night raids to intimidate the party and stop it challenging Mnangagwa’s win in the presidential vote.
The European Union, United States, Canada and Switzerland in a joint statement said they were concerned with post-election violence and intimidation of opposition supporters.
“These human rights violations have no place in a democratic society and contravene the fundamental tenets of international human rights standards,” the statement said.
Zimbabwe’s foreign minister denied those accusations, telling diplomats that if there was any evidence the military would investigate the cases.
The Criminal Investigations Department said in a statement police were looking for former finance minister and opposition figure Tendai Biti, MDC chairman Morgen Komichi and MDC youth leader Happymore Chidziva linked to last week’s violence.
Zimbabweans had hoped the vote would rid the country of its global pariah status and launch an economic recovery, but have watched an all too familiar pattern where the ruling party is declared the winner and the opposition rejects the outcome.
Under the constitution, a losing presidential candidate has 7 days from when a winner is declared to challenge the result at the Constitutional Court. The Court must rule within 14 days. Mnangagwa’s inauguration would have to wait for the outcome of a court challenge.
Foreign Minister Sibusiso Moyo said the government had set Aug. 12 as the tentative date for Mnangagwa’s inauguration if there was no court challenge to his victory.
Editing by James Macharia and Matthew Mpoke Bigg