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Tuesday, November 16, 1999 Published at 17:08 GMT


UK

Tatchell charged over Mugabe protest

The gay rights campaigner was arrested after the president's visit

British gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has been charged with using threatening words and behaviour during a demonstration against President Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

He has also been charged with assaulting a police officer during the incident in central London last month.

The leader of the gay rights group, OutRage!, attempted to make a citizen's arrest against Mr Mugabe when he visited the UK on a private shopping trip.

Mr Tatchell and two other members of the group were arrested after they pounced on a car in which Mr Mugabe was travelling.


[ image: Mugabe: Protested to UK government]
Mugabe: Protested to UK government
The group - which accuses Mr Mugabe of inciting "anti-gay hatred" - wanted to arrest him for the alleged torture of two journalists in Zimbabwe.

Mr Mugabe has attracted widespread criticism for his attacks on homosexuals, whom he has described as lower than "pigs or dogs."

Mr Tatchell says he will plead not guilty to the charges when the case comes before Horseferry Road Magistrates Court on Friday.

The two other men, aged 31 and 20, were ordered to return to Belgravia Police Station later on Tuesday.

Diplomatic spat

The incident has led to a diplomatic spat between Mr Mugabe and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Zimbabwe lodged a protest with Britain. Britain expressed regret, but did not apologise.

The row then escalated in media interviews given during the recent Commonwealth summit in South Africa, which both leaders attended, but at which they apparently did not meet.

Mr Mugabe accused the UK of setting "gay gangsters" on him over his controversial land reforms, under which land is to be taken from white landowners for redistribution to poor black families.

Mr Blair's official spokesman was forced to respond by officially declaring that the Prime Minister "is not a gay gangster".

'Eccentric'

Following the Remembrance Day service, at which Mr Mugabe was notably absent, Mr Blair referred to "eccentrics" in the Commonwealth.

He told an interviewer: "There is an eccentric end to the market, I'm afraid."

Asked whether he had "bumped into" the Zimbabwean President, he added: "I haven't, particularly, no."

In a separate radio interview at the summit, Mr Mugabe was dismissive of Mr Blair, saying he had no desire to talk to him.

"Mr Blair has remained a distant character, a kind of dry character, a man who wants nothing to do with you ... If a man doesn't want to see you, why should you want to see him?"



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13 Nov 99 | Africa
Gay activist offers Mugabe tea for two

10 Nov 99 | UK
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30 Oct 99 | UK
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01 Dec 98 | UK
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UK Foreign Office


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