Banana sodomy trial starts

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The Independent Online
ZIMBABWE'S EX-PRESIDENT, Canaan Banana, yesterday rejected charges of sodomy as "absolute nonsense" after his lawyer failed to get the case dismissed.

In his first court appearance the 62-year-old cleric said he had no idea why his former presidential staff and a gardener and job-seeker, whom he allegedly picked from the streets, were making the charges.

Mr Banana answered "never", "no" or "absolute nonsense" when he was asked whether he sodomised or tried to sexually attack his aides-de-camp, guards and cook, or offered dinner and drinks or danced or slept with any of them. The High Court ruled that Mr Banana must defend himself against the sodomy charges after rejecting an application by his lawyer Chris Andersen that the case be dismissed for lack of credible evidence.

High Court Judge President Godfrey Chidyausiku said there was enough evidence on the table "for any reasonable court to convict" Mr Banana.

Mr Banana, Zimbabwe's first but largely ceremonial president after independence from Britain in 1980, was ordered to take the stand for the first time since his trial opened three weeks ago. He has pleaded not guilty to 11 charges of sodomy, attempted sodomy and indecent assault and denies he sexually attacked some of his staff in the 1980s.

The prosecution alleges that Mr Banana abused his authority and that there was a pattern in how he preyed on his victims.

Sodomy is illegal in Zimbabwe and punishment includes jail. The charges were compiled after complaints by one of his aides, Jefta Dube, 36, who was jailed for 10 years in February 1997 for the fatal shooting of a policeman who provoked him by calling him "Banana's wife".