Court frees Zimbabwe PM's aides on bail

The High Court in Zimbabwe on Wednesday granted bail to four aides of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai who are facing charges of breaching the state secrecy code.

The staff members, arrested a day after a referendum on a new constitution, stand accused of violating state secrecy law, impersonating police officers and possessing articles for criminal use.

"I am of the firm view that granting the appellants bail with stringent conditions will meet the justice of the case," justice Chinembiri Bhunu said, handing down his ruling in Harare.

Among those arrested was Thabani Mpofu, the director of research in the premier's office who faces a separate charge of failing to renew a firearm licence.

The four were granted bail at $500 (640 euros) each and were ordered to report to police once a week.

Prominent rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, arrested while trying to assist the four when police raided Tsvangirai's communications office, was freed earlier this week.

She faces charges of obstructing justice after police accused her of shouting at detectives. A magistrate had last week denied the four workers and their lawyer bail.

Tsvangirai last week slammed the arrests as "reprehensible" and "meant to harass and intimidate the nation ahead of the election, now that we are done with the referendum."

The arrests blemished a largely peaceful referendum on a new constitution, which was approved by nearly 95 percent of voters.

The constitution is designed to pave the way for new elections to replace an uncomfortable power-sharing government between Tsvangirai and his arch-rival, veteran President Robert Mugabe.

The charter curtails the president's powers and sets a limit of two five-year terms.