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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas