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Tuesday, 6 March, 2001, 12:08 GMT
Tatchell defends Mugabe 'arrest'

Peter Tatchell attempted a previous arrest in London
Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell says he is prepared to repeat his attempted citizen's arrest on Zimbabwe's president.

Mr Tatchell was beaten by Mr Mugabe's bodyguards after he approached the president outside his Brussels hotel room on Monday to arrest him for breaking international human rights.

The fracas took place as Mr Mugabe was arriving for a meeting with the Belgian Prime Minister, Guy Verhofstadt.

Mr Tatchell told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that he would attempt a further citizen's arrest if the opportunity arose, but felt it was the duty of foreign governments to arrest the Zimbabwean leader under international agreements.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe
Mugabe was in France on Tuesday
He said: "The Belgian government should have met its responsibility to arrest the Zimbabwean leader as set out in international agreements against torture.

"It is in their law they should have applied it," he said.

"I will have another go if the opportunity arises, but I do think it is incumbent on governments like Britain, Belgium and the French government to implement the law they have pledged to up-hold."

He also said he was feeling "very, very, very sore" after the incident on Monday, but his pain "was of no real consequence compared to the far, far greater brutality that is meted out to the people of Zimbabwe by the Mugabe regime".

Mr Mugabe was due to meet French president Jacques Chirac on Tuesday amid calls for the meeting to be cancelled.

Tory MP Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) said: "It is an absolute disgrace that these European leaders should be meeting this man who is responsible for heinous crimes in his own country.


Peter Tatchell was charged over his cathedral protest
"He has been inciting his own terrorists to maim and kill in pursuit of the illegal seizure of farms. If this had been a South African white prime minister the United Nations would have been in permanent session."

Shadow foreign secretary Francis Maude said Mr Mugabe should be "read the riot act" by President Chirac.

He told the Today programme: "It is all right for Mugabe to be met by heads of state and government in other places as long as they take the opportunity to do what we would do, which is read him the riot act."

Mr Mugabe has attracted protests from gay rights activists for several years, since branding homosexuals "worse than pigs or dogs".

Mr Tatchell previously attempted a citizen's arrest on him in London.

Peter Tatchell has a long record as an activist for gay rights since he left his native Australia in 1971 to avoid the draft for the Vietnam war.

In recent years he has made British politicians and churchmen the focus of his crusade, claiming they are guilty of "hypocrisy and homophobia".

His protests have included releasing helium-filled condoms in Westminster Abbey, and "outing" 10 bishops who he claimed were gay.

In 1998 he was fined 18.60 under an obscure ecclesiastical law for disrupting the Archbishop of Canterbury while he was preaching his Easter Day service.

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See also:

06 Mar 01 | Europe
Mugabe seeking French support
01 Dec 98 | UK
Tatchell: Veteran protester
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