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Zimbabwe bishop stays silent on harassment of priest

A Zimbabwean bishop has defended his silence on the harassment of a priest in his diocese, saying that speaking out "would put many lives in danger".

Irish-born Fr Patrick Kelly, 60, is in hiding in Zimbabwe after fleeing for his life when members of President Robert Mugabe's militia of so-called "war veterans" drove him out of his parish in Mutare Diocese in eastern Zimbabwe.

"We are investigating the matter, but it is a very sensitive issue, and one has to be very careful in matters of this nature, otherwise you are putting many lives in danger," said Bishop Alexio Muchabaiwa of Mutarei.

Fr Kelly from Tubbercurry went to Zimbabwe in 1998 after spending the previous 27 years as a missionary in southern Kenya for St. Patrick's Missionary Society, based in Ireland's County Wicklow.

Before the group of seven thugs arrived at Fr Kelly's home in the village of Nyanga on 17 August, he was interrogated three times, by agents of Mugabe's secret police. Fr Kelly said then that he was accused of supporting the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

Amnesty International said Zimbabwe's "war veterans" are backed by the police and army and are able to act with impunity.

In the last year, white farmers have been forced off their land by "war veterans" as part of Mugabe's land reform program.

The Universe

Militias drive priest from parish (News24 29/8/02)
Mugabe threatens to 'regulate' meddling Catholic Justice Commission (14/10/02)
British priest forced to flee Zimbabwe (28/8/02)

28 Oct 2002