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Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Australia seeks asylum

AP

Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Australia has asked the Australian government for asylum, saying she fears for her safety and believes Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s government is “illegitimate,” media reported Saturday.

Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe since independence from British rule in 1980, won a disputed election in July amid allegations by opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai of widespread rigging and fraud. Mugabe denies the accusations.

In a video posted on the Canberra Times website on Saturday, Ambassador Jacqueline Zwambila said she fears her safety would be jeopardized if she returned to Zimbabwe after her term ends on Tuesday.

“Once the elections of 31 July were stolen by the current government — which is illegitimate — I knew that this was the end of the line for a lot of things,” she said. “End of the line for the people of Zimbabwe . . . for people like me, who were appointed, or rather nominated, by the ex-prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai.”

Australia was among several nations that condemned the July elections for breaches of democratic rights, with former Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr saying it appeared large numbers of people could not vote, casting doubts on the credibility of results.

Zwambila, who was recalled from her post after Mugabe won, has moved out of her residence but said she has no intention of flying back to Zimbabwe as scheduled next week. She said she is worried about being detained indefinitely amid threats of arrest after a court in Zimbabwe found that she owed money to a tradesman — a charge she denies.

“I don’t feel safe about returning to Zimbabwe at all,” she told Fairfax media.

Zwambila has asked the Australian government for protection visa so she can stay in the country. Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.