Judge rules Tsvangirai must face treason trial

The political career of Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe's main opposition leader, is in jeopardy after a court ruled yesterday that his treason trial must proceed. His lawyers said the case against him was badly flawed and asked the High Court judge Paddington Garwe to acquit him of plotting to kill the President, Robert Mugabe, and seize power.

Judge Garwe, a Mugabe sympathiser, acquitted two of Mr Tsvangirai's co-accused, but said: "I'm satisfied there is no basis on which accused number one [Mr Tsvangirai] can be discharged ... Application for his discharge is dismissed."

Mr Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had been on trial since February and his lawyers had applied for a discharge after the case was wrapped up last month. He faces the death penalty if convicted.

If Mr Tsvangirai were to be convicted but given a sentence above six-month imprisonment, his political career would still be in ruins because he would no longer be eligible to stand for president under Zimbabwe's laws. He is also unable to effectively mobilise Zimbabweans against the Mugabe regime as long as the treason trial hangs over him.

Mr Tsvangirai, his secretary general, Welshman Ncube, and his secretary for lands, Renson Gasela, were arrested two weeks before the disputed March 2002 presidential election. They were charged with plotting to kill 79-year-old Mr Mugabe. Mr Tsvangirai, 52, and his colleagues vehemently denied the charges, saying they had no reason to kill the "irrelevant" Zimbabwean leader. Their party had been heavily tipped in opinion polls to beat Mr Mugabe by a wide margin in the election.

Judge Garwe dismissed charges against Mr Ncube and Mr Gasela for "lack of evidence". George Bizos, for the defence, who represented Nelson Mandela in his treason trial almost 40 years ago, had asked for the acquittal of all three, saying that the state had failed to prove a case. He said the charges against Mr Tsvangirai had been fabricated and were politically motivated to harm his career.

The state's case is based on a grainy, surreptitiously recorded video in which Mr Tsvangirai allegedly plotted to kill Mr Mugabe with the help of a self-styled political consultant called Ari Ben-Menashe, who is based in Montreal.

Mr Ben-Menashe has admitted being paid more than £300,000 for his work as a "political consultant" for the Zimbabwe government but denied the money was paid for framing Mr Tsvangirai.

In his ruling, Judge Garwe said there was no evidence the tape had been tampered with. It contains references to the "elimination" of Mr Mugabe, a transitional government and the role of the army under a new government. "The available evidence shows a prima facie case against him [Mr Tsvangirai]", the judge said.

The charges against Mr Tsvangirai are widely seen as part of an unrelenting government campaign to use the courts to destroy the opposition party by targeting its charismatic leader. His trial resumes in September.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Highs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
News
news
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam