AP NEWS

Zimbabwe opposition official convicted of false declaration

February 18, 2019
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Tendai Biti, a prominent Zimbabwean politician, is seen before his release at the magistrates courts in Harare, Monday, Feb, 18, 2019. A Zimbabwean court has convicted prominent opposition politician Tendai Biti for announcing that his party's leader won disputed elections held in July. Biti was on trial for "unofficial and false declaration of results." (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
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Tendai Biti, a prominent Zimbabwean politician, is seen before his release at the magistrates courts in Harare, Monday, Feb, 18, 2019. A Zimbabwean court has convicted prominent opposition politician Tendai Biti for announcing that his party's leader won disputed elections held in July. Biti was on trial for "unofficial and false declaration of results." (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — A Zimbabwean court has convicted prominent opposition politician Tendai Biti for announcing that his party’s leader won disputed elections held in July.

Biti was on trial for “unofficial and false declaration of results” and Magistrate Gloria Takundwa fined him $200 for the offence.

Biti’s lawyer Alec Muchadehama said he will appeal against the court decision.

Biti told reporters after paying the fine that he was “absolutely innocent ... I’m not a criminal.”

The case is “just a symptom of the bigger challenges affecting our country. Our country is captured by very dangerous people,” said Biti. “It is unacceptable what is happening and we will keep on fighting.”

Biti, a former finance minister and a leading human rights lawyer, fled the country to neighboring Zambia in August citing threats to his life. He was deported back to Zimbabwe days later and arrested for allegedly violating the electoral law.

Main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa and his party, the Movement for Democratic Change, have rejected the election results, claiming the electoral agency rigged the vote to ensure a win for President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Zimbabwe has sunk deeper into political turmoil and economic decline since the elections, the first to be held without former longtime ruler Robert Mugabe. At one time the elections were viewed by both local and the international community as key to turning the country around after decades of repression.