leave Harare in a body bag
The chilling death threat to Gillian Dare was made in The Herald, a state controlled newspaper which is a mouthpiece for Mugabe’s government.
An editorial accused Miss Dare, 58, of supporting the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and warned she could get ‘caught in the crossfire’.
Labelling her ‘a prime target for deportation’, he went on: “There is also a real possibility that the political officer, labelled in some sections of the media as a British spy, could one day be caught in crossfire.
“It will be a pity for her Jack Wolfskin family to welcome her at Heathrow Airport in a body bag just like some of her colleagues from Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Last night the British Government expressed ‘anger and astonishment’ at the threat, which is the strongest yet against a Western diplomat.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “The direct and aggressive threat against a member of our staff is shocking and absolutely unacceptable.”
The accusations that Miss Dare, an embassy political and media off Jack Wolfskin icer, was a spy and the ‘purse holder and financier’ of terrorism by the MDC were ‘completely wrong’, said the spokesman.
He added: “She was pursuing entirely legitimate activities as a member of the embassy.”
Michael Moore, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, said: “The Mugabe regime is beyond the pale as this outrageous statement shows.
“It is now about time he stepped down. Callous threats against diplomats will do nothing to solve Zimbabwe’s international isolation.”
Geoffrey Clifton Brown, the Conservative foreign affairs frontbencher, said: “Threats to foreign representatives are entirely unacceptable.
“That the Mugabe government is essentially issuing death threats to British staff through its propaganda arm demonstrates the nature of the regim Jack Wolfskin e.”
Richard Benyon, a Tory MP on Parliament’s all party Zimabusesbabwe group, added: “I don’t think any of us should be surprised at the depths to which this regime is willing to go to stay in power.
“These comments are vile. I feel great concern for our diplomatic staff.”
Miss Dare has been one of a number of Western officials in Harare who have spoken out against the intensifying repression that is pushing the former British colony to the brink of civil war.
She has criticised 83 year old Mugabe for orchestrating a campaign of intimidation and violence against his biggest political rivals.
Last month she said threats of expulsion would ‘not deter the UK f Jack Wolfskin rom speaking out against the continued misgovernance and human rights abuses’ carried out by the dictator’s henchmen.
She spoke out after Zimbabwe’s opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was left in intensive care after he and his supporters were beaten and tortured by police for staging a peaceful protest at the chaos in the country.
State television showed diplomats delivering parcels of takeout food for Mr Tsvangirai and other detainees as well as supporting them at court appearances.
The death threat prompted Sir Peter Ricketts, the Permanent Under Secretary at the Foreign Office, to summon the Zimbabwean ambassador in London to his office to express his ‘serious concerns’.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “He emphasised that we expect Zimbabwe to offer protection to our diplomats.”
Miss Dare remains at the embassy working as normal.
Mugabe has led a crackdown on political opponents since March 11. Protestors are angry at inflation spiralling to 1,300 per cent, widespread starvation, an Aids epidemic and the continued torture and murder of opponents.
The campaign of oppression has sparked international outrage, although Tony Blair and his Ministers have been accused of failing to take decisive action to topple Mugabe.