Zambia hands back Biti, 5 other Zimbabweans seeking asylum

Zambia hands back Biti,  5 other  Zimbabweans seeking asylum

* Human Rights Watch says Zambia now likely to be taken to international courts for breaking international law and treaty obligations

The Zambian Government has handed over opposition MDC lawmaker Tendai Biti and five others to the Zimbabwean police in total disregard of a High Court Order granted to Mr Biti last night.

According to Mr Biti’s legal team,the Zambian immigration office handed the opposition leader at 06:00hrs this morning despite being served with a court order at 04:00hrs today.

“Contrary to the law and a Court order. And even assuming it was a deportation, which it was not, the law is clear that a deportee can choose a country of his choice to which he can be deported but in this case he was denied that right”.

“The whole thing just smells of illegality and extra judicial behaviour by Zambian authorities. It is also a breach of international law”,the legal team said.

He was accompanied across the border by a horde of heavily armed Zambian police officers and the legal team is currently making frantic efforts to establish his exact whereabouts.

Meanwhile, the team is expected to appear before Judge Yangailo in the wake of the latest developments.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch says If Zambia proceeds with the deportation it will violate its obligations under international law, including several treaties binding on it, that prohibit the return of any person to a country where they face a real risk of torture or other ill treatment (the principle of non-refoulment).

Human Rights Watch says it has documented a pattern of abductions, beatings, and harassment of third parties by security forces and unidentified armed men on the trail of senior opposition MDC Alliance officials in Harare since the election. Zimbabwe authorities have turned a blind eye to these abuses and have neglected to take steps to halt the abuses or hold those responsible to account.

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    WATCHDOG READER 1 week ago

    Zimbabwean opposition politician Tendai Biti has appeared in court in handcuffs on charges of inciting violence after he was deported from Zambia.

    Zambia’s government rejected Mr Biti’s request for asylum on Wednesday.

    Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa said Mr Biti had been released on bail following his intervention.

    Prosecutors accuse Mr Biti of fuelling illegal protests by rejecting Mr Mnangagwa’s victory in the fiercely contested elections on 30 July.

    At least six people were killed two days after the vote in clashes between security forces and MDC Alliance supporters who alleged that their leader, Nelson Chamisa, had been robbed of victory.

    There was great optimism that the elections would bring real change after the end of Robert Mugabe’s 37-year rule in November.

    But the MDC Alliance says the security forces have launched a brutal crackdown on the opposition following the disputed poll.

    Mr Biti is the first senior opposition politician to be detained since Mr Mnangagwa took over from Mr Mugabe.

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    A handcuffed Mr Biti was brought to court in the capital, Harare, under a strong police presence.

    Prosecutors say he falsely declared Mr Chamisa the winner of the election, and encouraged his supporters to damage property during protests against the election results.

    Mr Biti was freed on $5,000 (£4,300) bail, and ordered to surrender his passport.

    “We will keep on fighting,” he told reporters.

    In a tweet, Mr Mnangagwa said his intervention led to Mr Biti’s release.

    “At such a crucial time in the history of the new Zimbabwe, nothing is more important than unity, peace and dialogue,” he added.

    However, Mr Mnangagwa said that because of the “serious nature of the allegations” against Mr Biti, “due process will continue”.

    Media captionBBC captures footage of last week’s post-election violence in Harare
    Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency said it was “gravely concerned” by reports that Mr Biti had been deported while trying to claim asylum in Zambia.

    “Forcibly returning refugees and asylum-seekers to their country of origin is a serious violation of international refugee law,” the agency said in a statement.

    Mr Biti’s lawyer Gilbert Phiri said Zambia’s High Court ruled on Wednesday night that Mr Biti should not be deported until a “judicial review” of the government’s decision to reject his asylum application.

    However, Zambian immigration and police officers refused to accept the court papers, and surrendered him to Zimbabwean law enforcement officers at the Chirundu border post, about 350km (220 miles) north of Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, Mr Phiri said.

    ‘Taking revenge’
    By Kennedy Gondwe, BBC Africa, Lusaka

    The Zambian government has probably taken its revenge on Mr Biti by deporting him to Zimbabwe.

    Mr Biti came to Zambia last year to show solidarity with opposition leader Hakaide Hichilema after he was arrested on treason charges.

    He was scathing in his criticism of Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu, accusing him of behaving like then-President Mugabe by targeting Mr Hichilema. So, it is not surprising that Zambia has deported him.

    Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
    Image caption
    Zimbabwe’s ex-President Mugabe (R) was a hero of Zambia’s late President Michael Sata (L)
    Zambia’s ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party has always been a staunch ally of Zanu-PF, which has been in power since Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980. Its founding leader, the late Michael Sata, was inspired by Mr Mugabe, and like him regarded the MDC as a “puppet of the West”.

    When Mr Sata formed the party in 2001, he named it PF to signal that it would forge close ties with Zanu-PF. The relationship remains strong some 17 years later, albeit with new leaders at the helm of the two parties.

    Mr Biti is the most senior opposition leader to be detained since Mr Mnangagwa took office.

    On Wednesday, Zambia’s Foreign Minister Joe Malanji told the BBC that Mr Biti’s grounds for asylum were weak.

    Media captionBBC captures footage of last week’s post-election violence in Harare
    The police are hunting for eight other senior opposition officials in connection with post-election violence.

    The MDC Alliance has confirmed that it will challenge the presidential election result in court, saying it was marred by “mammoth theft and fraud”.

    The electoral commission says there was “absolutely no skulduggery”.

    Image copyrightALAMY
    Mr Mnangagwa obtained 50.8% of the vote, compared with Mr Chamisa’s 44.3%. The remaining votes went to 21 other candidates.

    Mr Biti was the minister of finance in a unity government formed after disputed elections in 2008 – and is credited with helping stabilise the economy after years of hyperinflation.

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    REX TEMBO 1 week ago

    Ba Zambia ubupuba too much

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    A clear win in what way? What can you verify from your desk at hone?

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    Interesting. Moise Katumbi can come in and out of Zambia at will, while Biti can’t? Let us remain non-aligned and be pragmatic when resolving issues. We never know where the tide will turn tomorrow.

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    abilima 1 week ago

    That is not the issue – the issue should be why is Biti running away? What do you want to ignore his very careless utterances after the loss? Announcing election results in his favor before official results are announced was dangerously careless.

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    CHINVINDINVINDI 1 week ago

    Ba Zimbo. Watch your backside noise.
    Zim Presidential election results are disputable in court.
    As Zambia we should wait and see the outcome from their courts by remaining neutral. Any rushed actions and pronouncements will only embarass us in future.

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    abilima 1 week ago

    Whereas I would have preferred Mr. Biti was accorded asylum for humanitarian reasons, I am afraid some of the people that participated in inciting the genocide in Rwanda are still hiding – and some may be here. Also, keeping Mr. Biti here would have complicated our relationship with Zimbabwe – remember Mnangagwa is “half Zambian”. I am actually surprised that Mr. Biti chose Zambia for asylum after denigrating its leadership just a few months ago. Let this also help serve as a lesson, because it looks like now it is becoming a trend for losing aspirants to try to incite chaos after losing, with the hope of being ushered into power by a people’s revolution.

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    Angoni chaiwo 1 week ago

    @ zimbo: you seem to glorify in lawlessness, it’s a pity. I feel ashamed to belong to a government which does not respect international laws. The Chewas say : ” chaona mzako chapita mawa chili paiwe, simply : today it is me and tomorrow it will be you.Currently we have The former Katanga Governor who is very safe in Zambia but the authorities in Congo don’t want him. Let’s have a same foreign policy.

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    ZIMBO 1 week ago

    This mugore gore has been a trouble maker in Zimbabwe. It is clear that ZANU PF won this election without any malice. This Beat(Biti) fellow and his so called leader( Chamisa) after realising thath they have lost now want to cause troubles by inciting youths in Harare. Please hand him back the the crocodile so that he can face justice