A flicker of hope in Zimbabwe

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Once in a while, something happens that seems to keep the flickering flame of hope alive even in some of the world's darkest corners. Such a development was the unexpected acquittal in Zimbabwe yesterday of Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the beleaguered opposition to Robert Mugabe. Releasing Mr Tsvangirai, the judge said: "The state has not been able to prove high treason beyond reasonable doubt." Such a conclusion does not always, and everywhere, lead to acquittal. The verdict confirms the judiciary as one of the last repositories of civilised values in Zimbabwe; Judge Paddington Garwe is a courageous man.

Once in a while, something happens that seems to keep the flickering flame of hope alive even in some of the world's darkest corners. Such a development was the unexpected acquittal in Zimbabwe yesterday of Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the beleaguered opposition to Robert Mugabe. Releasing Mr Tsvangirai, the judge said: "The state has not been able to prove high treason beyond reasonable doubt." Such a conclusion does not always, and everywhere, lead to acquittal. The verdict confirms the judiciary as one of the last repositories of civilised values in Zimbabwe; Judge Paddington Garwe is a courageous man.

Conspiratorial theories could be posited about why it might be in Mr Mugabe's interests not to erase the Movement for Democratic Change. And no one should be under any illusions about the repression that the MDC will continue to face. Nor does the verdict mark the end of Mr Tsvangirai's travails. He is due back in court next month to answer less serious charges relating to his call for anti-Mugabe demonstrations last year. Democracy is not about to break out in Zimbabwe. But justice, at least, has not been completely snuffed out.

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