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Zimbabwe: Opposition leader in intensive care

Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has been moved to intensive care with a cracked skull after he and 49 other opposition activists were released from police custody. The opposition leader has severe head injuries.

The head of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Zimbabwe's main opposition party, and several of his supporters claim they were brutally beaten by police after their arrest during an anti-government prayer rally on Sunday.

The treatment of Mr Tsvangirai provoked international condemnation after he appeared in court with his face battered and swollen.

"He has had two pints of blood added to his system because the doctors said he had lost a lot of blood. He has just had a brain scan because his skull is cracked," spokesman William Bango told Reuters.

"He will be here for some time." "They have been released from police custody. Thirty-one, including Mr Tsvangirai, are still in hospital while 19 have gone home," Alec Muchadehama, Mr Tsvangirai's lawyer, said.

The agreement to release Mr Tsvangirai and other opponents of President Robert Mugabe was reached by defence attorneys and the attorney-general's office yesterday afternoon.

He refused medical treatment for the deep gash on his forehead and other wounds until all his fellow detainees were allowed to go to hospital.

Andrew Pocock, the British ambassador in Harare, was at the court hearing yesterday. "This was ghastly, barbaric treatment," he said. "Morgan Tsvangirai has been very badly beaten but he remains strong, they all seem in good spirits. This government is under international scrutiny, and it is under enormous economic pressure. I don't know what comes next."

The treatment meted out to Mr Tsvangirai and his followers drew worldwide condemnation, led by Condoleezza Rice, the American secretary of state.

She said: "The world community again has been shown that the regime of Robert Mugabe is ruthless and repressive and creates only suffering for the people of Zimbabwe.

Margaret Beckett, the Foreign Secretary, has made no public comment on the situation. But Lord Triesman, the junior foreign office minister responsible for Africa, said: "The UK holds Robert Mugabe and his Zimbabwe government responsible for the safety of all those detained, urges the police to allow them access to legal advice, to provide them with medical care and to arrange for their immediate release."

South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki's has always refrained from condemning Mr Mugabe. But Aziz Pahad, his deputy foreign minister, called on the regime to abide by the "rule of law" and "respect the rights of all Zimbabweans", including the "leaders of various political parties".