November 8, 2002

Tsvangirai's treason trial postponed

Justice Charles Hungwe has ruled that the treason trial of Zimbabwean MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and two other party officials facing allegations of plotting to assassinate President Mugabe be held in February 2003.

The trial was originally set for next Monday. Hungwe's ruling followed an urgent application in the High Court by Innocent Chagonda representing Tsvangirai, Welshman Ncube, the MDC secretary-general and MP for Bulawayo North-East, and Renson Gasela, the shadow minister of agriculture and MP for Gweru Rural. Chagonda said the ruling was made last week on Monday. "The matter will be heard on 3 February 2002," he said. Chagonda said they applied for the postponement because the State had failed to give the defence a copy of the audio tape in which Tsvangirai is alleged to have spoken of the plan to assassinate Mugabe.

He said, in addition, the government delayed in giving the defence team the State outline in the matter."Our advocates were also not available on the date proposed by the State," Chagonda said.

Advocates Chris Andersen and Eric Matinenga are part of the MDC leaders' defence team.The three were implicated by former Israeli secret agent Ari Ben-Menashe, of the Canadian lobbyist firm, Dickens and Madson, last November in the run-up to the controversial March presidential election.

Ben-Menashe, who did political consultancy for the government, has admitted being a long-time admirer of Mugabe well before the alleged plot by Tsvangirai and his colleagues. The government alleged that a video shot secretly by Ben-Menashe showed Tsvangirai agreeing with Ben-Menashe that Mugabe be killed before the presidential election.

Tsvangirai becomes the second opposition leader after the late Zanu president, Ndabaningi Sithole, to be tried on allegations of trying to kill Mugabe. Sithole died in December 2000 with a pending case in the Supreme Court in which he was challenging a two-year prison sentence imposed by the High Court following his conviction for attempting to assassinate Mugabe. (Daily News, Harare)

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