THE US government has strongly condemned the arrest of MDC Alliance co-vice president Tendai Biti last week, describing it targeted persecution on the opposition heavyweight.
Biti was arrested last Friday for allegedly verbally assaulting a Russian national based in Zimbabwe by calling her an “idiot”.
He denies the charges.
Biti was granted $10 000 bail when he appeared before the Harare magistrate provincial head, Vongai Muchuchuti Saturday.
However, in statement, US assistant secretary for US Department of State’s Bureau of African Affairs, Tibor Nagy said democracy in Zimbabwe cannot thrive when public servants are targeted for exposing corruption.
“A democracy cannot thrive when public servants are targeted for exposing corruption. The United States will continue to monitor Tendai Biti’s case closely,” he said.
Biti is the chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio on Public Accounts and MP for Harare East.
The US embassy in Harare also voiced its concerns and said arbitrary arrests on opposition leaders has no space in a true democracy.
“A true democracy leaves no space for arbitrary arrests of opposition political figures. We will watch the developments closely in Tendai Biti’s case,” the embassy said.
The charge against Biti relates to an alleged incident following a court hearing on November 30.
Biti was involved in litigation, representing a client in the Harare Airport Road scandal, when Tatiana Aleshina, a Russian national, was reportedly whispering information to the prosecution constantly.
The Harare lawyer and legislator voiced a complaint to the magistrate about Aleshina’s conduct.
“After the court hearing, Aleshina confronted Honourable Biti threatening that he should not mention her name,” MDC spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere said after Biti’s appearance in court.
Aleshina then filed a police report.
According to Mahere, Biti was arrested when he went to the police to clear his name.
“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 Biti had assaulted 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”.