Tsvangirai released by Zimbabwean police

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Morgan Tsvangirai and about 14 other members of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party have been released by police after being held for about eight hours at a police station in Lupane, Zimbabwe.

"It is nothing but the usual harassment which is totally unnecessary," Tsvangirai told Agence France-Presse. "We have seen worse things than this."

Tsvangirai's convoy was stopped at a roadblock earlier today, while campaigning in June 27 presidential run-off election. President Robert Mugabe is the incumbent.

No charges have been filed against Tsvangirai or the MDC members, but authorities have kept the vehicles in which they were traveling.

President Mugabe disputed the reports as concocted by the MDC to curry favor internationally. Mugabe is currently in Rome, Italy for the United Nations World Food Summit.

While Tsvangirai was detained, many governments and NGOs called for his release, including the United States and the European Union.

"We are deeply concerned on the report of the arrest of Tsvangirai," said an official from the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. "We urge the authorities to release him immediately and to resist from all harassment of opposition members."

Sean McCormack of the United States Department of State said Tsvangirai should be released "unharmed and untouched."

"But we are deeply concerned about whether or not the proper conditions exist for a free and fair election," McCormack added. "We continue to call on the Zimbabwean government to create these conditions. But, given their history, that call also comes with a healthy does of skepticism."

On Monday, President George W. Bush said, "The continued use of government-sponsored violence in Zimbabwe, including unwarranted arrests and intimidation of opposition figures, to prevent the Movement for Democratic Change from campaigning freely ahead of the June 27 presidential runoff election is deplorable."