Tsvangirai sues Australian TV station over plot allegations

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The Independent Online

Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai Thursday launched legal action against an Australian television station over its claims that he had conspired to assassinate President Robert Mugabe.

Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), filed a statement of claim, or lawsuit, in the New South Wales state Supreme Court Thursday against SBS Television for its broadcast earlier this month of a secretly filmed meeting in which he allegedly planned the overthrow or "elimination" of Mugabe.

Tsvangirai's spokesman in Australia, Zimbabwe Shadow Minister for International Affairs Tendai Biti, said videos released by the SBS were nothing but "malicious propaganda ... against our party leader and against our party."

He said the allegations were false, and that SBS had been "duped" by Mugabe's supporters.

"The whole essence of that action is to vindicate our name and to vindicate the truth," Biti told reporters in Sydney.

"We are a lawful and loyal opposition in Zimbabwe and there is absolutely, absolutely no way that ourselves as a party or our leadership would ever contemplate, anticipate these sort of heinous allegations that have been made in those tapes," he added.

SBS television's "Dateline" program on February 13 aired a surveillance tape between a person identified as Tsvangirai and political consultants in Montreal, Canada.

SBS said it stands by the story.

Biti also urged countries attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in the northeastern Australia city of Brisbane over the weekend to reconsider Zimbabwe's membership to the Commonwealth until a free and fair election process is restored.