Zimbabwe opposition VP Tendai Biti released on bail after assault charge

Tendai Biti, 53, was freed on $10,000 bail after a night behind bars, after having been charged with assault.

FILE: Former Zimbabwe Finance Minister Tendai Biti at The Gathering on the ANC's elective conference on 23 November 2017. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN.

HARARE - Zimbabwean police briefly detained a former finance minister and top opposition official late Friday on a charge of assaulting a Russian national last month, his party's spokeswoman said Saturday.

Tendai Biti, 53, was freed on $10,000 bail after a night behind bars, after having been charged with assault.

Provincial head magistrate in Harare, Vongai Muchuchuti, set his case to January 18 for trial.

The charge against Biti, a lawmaker who is vice-president of Zimbabwe's main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance, arise out of an alleged incident following November 30 a court hearing.

Biti, who is a qualified lawyer, was involved in litigation, representing a client in the Harare Airport Road scandal, Tatiana Aleshina, a Russian national was said to be constantly whispering information to the prosecution.

Biti voiced a complaint to the magistrate about Aleshina's conduct.

"After the court hearing, Aleshina confronted honourable Biti threatening that he should not mention his name," MDC spokeswoman Fadzai Mahere told AFP, adding that she then filed a police report.

He was arrested and detained when he went to the police to clear his name, Mahere added.

"Biti's only crime is unearthing the corruption scandal concerning the Harare Airport Road land deal involving the complainant, Aleshina and businessmen linked to (President) Emmerson Mnangagwa."

In court, prosecutor Idah Maromo argued that Biti had assaulted Tatiana Aleshina by threatening her, pointing his finger at her face, shouting insults at the top of his voice, "intending to inspire fear of belief into her mind".

Biti denies the charge and his party described it as "trumped up" and a "weaponisation of the law" to target party members and officials.

His lawyer Alec Muchadehama also argued that Zimbabwean police "not working on their own.

"There is an external force telling them what to do and who to arrest," he said.

Biti has previously been charged with treason, among other criminal offences.

Zimbabwean police have in the past arrested several opposition officials, which the party argues is a way of weakening their struggle against the ruling ZANU PF.

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