Zambian authorities on Thursday defied a court order stopping them from deporting top Zimbabwe opposition figure Tendai Biti, handing him to police across the border, his lawyer said.
“They have defied the court order to allow him to seek asylum and as I am speaking to you right now he has been handed over to the Zimbabwean police,” lawyer Gilbert Phiri told AFP.
Biti, a veteran figure in the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), fled to Zambia on Wednesday claiming asylum, reportedly facing charges at home of inciting post-election violence.
Zambian authorities swiftly refused him asylum, but Phiri said Biti’s legal team had managed to challenge the decision, keeping Biti in Zambia.
But authorities have ignored the ruling and deported him, Phiri said.
He is on the Zimbabwe side,” he confirmed. “This is really embarrassing.”
A hearing at Zambia’s High Court, where Biti was supposed to appear, will go ahead Thursday in his absence, Phiri added.
The MDC were defeated in last week’s historic first elections since Zimbabwe’s military ousted Robert Mugabe in November, ending 37 years of iron-fisted rule.
Mugabe’s successor President Emmerson Mnangagwa was declared the winner on Friday by a narrow margin — results the opposition has furiously contested, alleging fraud.
Biti, an internationally-respected finance minister in Zimbabwe’s troubled 2009-2013 power-sharing government, had proclaimed a victory for the opposition before the results came in.
According to Zimbabwe’s state-run Chronicle newspaper, he is among nine suspects sought for inciting protests over alleged rigging which turned deadly.
The army opened fire with live ammunition on the opposition protesters, killing six people and prompting an international outcry.
The election has been marred by accusations of a crackdown on opponents, with arrests and beatings, as well as the deadly violence and rigging claims.