People: Gorbachev has his day in court

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The Independent Online
THE former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev swallowed his reluctance and became star witness at the trial of the remaining hardliner who led a failed coup against him in August 1991. Most of the 12 plotters said they had acted in the belief that Mr Gorbachev had given them the nod to impose a state of emergency. But, testifying for the first time at the Supreme Court in Moscow, Mr Gorbachev denied that he had encouraged the plotters.

On his way to the courtroom he had to run a gauntlet of angry demonstrators who jeered, whistled and called him 'Judas'. Valentin Varennikov, a former defence minister and armed-forces chief, was the only one of the ringleaders who did not accept a parliamentary amnesty in February. He insisted that he wanted to stand trial to throw light on the 'Soviet tragedy'. He is accused of treason and plotting to overthrow Gorbachev and faces anything from 10 years in prison to the death sentence.

THE world's longest-surviving heart transplant recipient, Dirk van Zyl, died in Cape Town of a stroke, 23 years after having been given a new heart by the transplant pioneer Chris Barnard at Groote Schuur hospital.

Dr Barnard said he was very sorry to hear of the death of van Zyl, whom he described as his 'top patient.' Van Zyl's son Coenie said his father - 'a tremendous fighter' - gave up smoking after the transplant and controlled his resulting weight increase by strict diets.

IT SEEMS that the Philippines actress swindle might never have been rumbled if the two actresses concerned had stuck to one story. Nanette Madved, one of the starlets charged in last month's presentation of awards to the wrong people, told an investigating committee that her co-presenter for the Best Actor Award, Ruffa Gutierrez, warned her to keep quiet. 'She told me 'Listen to the radio. No matter what, stick to my story',' Medved said. But she did not heed the warnings and admitted to the scam, while Gutierrez denied involvement. Both are charged with fraud.

(Photograph omitted)

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