Friday, April 4, 2008

Raids target Zimbabwe opposition and journalists


Raids target Zimbabwe opposition and journalists

• -- Zimbabwean government forces Thursday began cracking down on the main opposition party, raising fears of a political crisis, according to witnesses and an opposition spokesman.
The forces raided at least two hotels in the capital, including one that houses foreign journalists, a witness told CNN.
Four journalists unaccredited by the Zimbabwean government were taken away, he said.
New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller confirmed that Barry Bearak, a Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent based in Johannesburg, South Africa, was taken into custody.
"We do not know where he is being held, or what, if any, charges have been made against him," Keller said in a written statement.
"We are making every effort to ascertain his status, to assure that he is safe and being well treated, and to secure his prompt release."

The identities of the other journalists seized in the raid were not immediately known.
State Department spokesman Tom Casey told CNN the United States is calling for the immediate release of Americans seized by Zimbabwe authorities. "We are concerned about the taking into custody of several American citizens," Casey said in a telephone interview. "There is no reason for that. We want to see them released as soon as possible."
State Department officials said they were bound by privacy constraints and couldn't say how many American reporters were taken.
Tendai Biti, secretary-general for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, told CNN that his party's offices -- in another Harare hotel -- were also raided by Zimbabwean forces.
Some of the rooms were ransacked, The Associated Press reported.

• "There's a definite crackdown," Biti said. No one was detained in that raid, he added.
The action targeted "certain people ... including myself," Biti told the AP.
"It is quite clear he has unleashed a war," he said, referring to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.
The crackdown came hours after the government announced another delay in releasing some of last weekend's election results, raising fears that Mugabe is trying to come up with a plan to remain in power. Many are predicting a runoff election.