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Last Updated: Sunday, 12 March 2006, 23:44 GMT
Eight charged over Mugabe 'plot'
Robert Mugabe at a party for his 82nd birthday
Robert Mugabe celebrated his 82nd birthday last month
Eight people, including an opposition MP, have been charged in Zimbabwe over an alleged plot to assassinate President Robert Mugabe.

The accused were arrested last week after an arms cache was allegedly discovered at the home of one of them.

Four of those charged are reportedly police officers.

Zimbabwe authorities say the group planned to ambush Mr Mugabe after his 82nd birthday party, which took place last month.

Among those charged was Giles Mutsekwa, an opposition MP for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

They also included Peter Hitschmann, who is reported to be a former member of the old Rhodesian security forces.

It is at his home, in Mutare, that a weapons cache including automatic rifles, ammunition and tear gas canisters was allegedly found.

The Zimbabwe authorities claim that Mr Hitschmann is linked to an organisation called the Zimbabwe Freedom Movement, and that this group is seeking to overthrow Mr Mugabe's government.

MDC denial

Zimbabwean TV has reported that the men had brought drums of oil with the intention of pouring it on a road just before the presidential motorcade passed.

The group were remanded in custody until Wednesday.

Security Minister Didymus Mutasa warned anyone planning violence: "If it came to a position where we have to eliminate them physically because of what they are doing, then it is their fault, that is what they are looking for, and we will not hesitate to do that."

The opposition MDC has denied all knowledge of the alleged plot, and says it is an attempt by the state to derail the party's congress next Friday.

"We wish to place it on record that the MDC does not have any links with Mr Hitschmann, the so-called Zimbabwe Freedom Movement or any other person or group that seeks to effect a regime change through the barrel of the gun, an armed struggle, violence or unconstitutional means," said an MDC spokesman.

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