HARARE, Zimbabwe – The Zimbabwe opposition party's No. 2 official was freed on bail Thursday, two weeks after being arrested and charged with treason.
Tendai Biti returned to his home in the capital late in the afternoon looking tired and frail, but still sounding defiant.
"Some people stay 27 years in prison so two weeks is nothing," he said in an interview with Associated Press Television. "It wasn't easy though, but we have to continue fighting."
Anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, who criticized Zimbabwe's leadership Wednesday, spent 27 years in prison before becoming South Africa's first democratically elected president.
Lawyer Lewis Uriri said that, in addition to bail set at 1 trillion Zimbabwean dollars, or about $100, Biti was required to surrender his passport and the title to his home and report to police twice a week.
Biti, the secretary-general of the Movement for Democratic Change, was arrested at the airport after flying back to Zimbabwe from South Africa June 12.
The treason charge filed against him carries the death penalty. He also has been charged with publishing false statements and insulting the president, along with another charge related to interfering with the military.
Biti said he was jailed in harsh conditions used to intimidate suspects in custody.
"Where I was reflects the collapse of the state. People are dying there. People have no food, no blankets," he said. "It's a depressing place. It really attacks your morale and your strength.
Biti's bail was granted on the eve of a presidential runoff election that world leaders have dismissed as a sham.
Party leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who had been the only candidate facing President Robert Mugabe, announced Sunday he was withdrawing because state-sponsored violence made it impossible to run. Electoral officials say Friday's election will go ahead with Tsvangirai's name on the ballot.
Biti said he was not surprised by Tsvangirai's decision to pull out of the runoff.
"It wasn't a shock," he said. "The closer we got to June 27, the clearer it became that this thing was a farce."
Tsvangirai called Wednesday for talks on forming a transitional authority, but he said Biti would have to be released before negotiations could begin. Until now, Mugabe has shown no interest in talks, seeming intent on extending his nearly three decades in power.
Earlier, Biti's party welcomed the news that he was to be released from jail.
"There wasn't a case from the start. It (Biti's arrest and detention) was unlawful," spokesman Nelson Chamisa said.