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7 Opposition members charged in bomb plot

world Updated: Jan 08, 2009 09:56 IST
Seven Zimbabwe opposition members charged in bomb plot

Seven members of Zimbabwe's main opposition party were the first of dozens of jailed dissidents to be formally charged, and they pleaded not guilty in a bombing plot.

The seven are among rights activists and opposition party members detained in recent weeks in what the opposition calls a crackdown on dissent. They were charged with terrorism, banditry and insurgency, and could face the death penalty if convicted.

They include Gandi Mudzingwa, an adviser to Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai; and Chris Dhlamini, head of security for Tsvangirai's party.

Lawyer Alec Muchadehama, who entered the not guilty pleas on behalf of his clients, told the judge the charges were "ridiculous and scandalous".

He also called two doctors who testified the defendants had been beaten while in police custody and had serious injuries. Muchadehama asked the judge to allow the defendants to be further examined outside jail to determine whether they had been tortured.

The prosecutors argued that the two doctors' testimony was not credible. The judge was expected to rule Thursday on the request for further medical examination.

The charges stem from two minor blasts in the main Harare police station and a botched bombing of a highway bridge and railroad line west of Harare last year.

Several opposition activists accused of involvement had been acquitted earlier, and police have said the bombs at the police station may have been planted by disgruntled officers, possibly to destroy incriminating evidence.