Skip to comments.Zimbabwe treason trial starts amid chaos
Posted on 02/03/2003 1:29:31 PM PST by Clive
Harare Baton- wielding police beat back a crowd of lawmakers, diplomats and journalists trying to see Monday's treason trial of opposition leaders accused of plotting to murder President Robert Mugabe.
Later on the trial's opening day, a judge ruled that spectators should be admitted, but police said they did not hear that until hours afterward. A few journalists were arrested.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and two senior party colleagues could face the death penalty if convicted.
Respected South African anti-apartheid attorney George Bizos, who represented Nelson Mandela nearly 40 years ago in South Africa, is defending them. Mr. Bizos had asked for the trial to be adjourned until it was opened to the public.
Mr. Tsvangirai denies the accusations as a "frame-up." After he was formally charged Feb. 25 just weeks before last year's presidential election, which he lost the U.S. government said there was no convincing evidence against him and the others, and that the charges were further efforts to repress the opposition.
U.S. Ambassador Joseph Sullivan, allowed in by security officials after being forced to wait in the crowd, said Washington was closely following the case.
"It has important implications for both the rule of law and democratic pluralism in Zimbabwe," he said.
Other Western diplomats were jostled and turned away and said they planned to protest to the Foreign Ministry.
The case centres on a secretly recorded video tape of a meeting between Mr. Tsvangirai, 50, and consultant Ari Ben Menashe, in which the opposition leader purportedly sought help to "eliminate" Mr. Mugabe, 78.
The other suspects Welshman Ncube, party secretary- general of Mr. Tsvangiriai's Movement for Democratic Change, and opposition leader Renson Gasela are accused of helping arrange the Dec. 4, 2001, meeting.
Mr. Ben Menashe says he is a former Israeli intelligence officer and arms dealer and now heads a Canadian consulting firm.
Mr. Tsvangirai said the firm had offered to help the opposition clean up its image in the West. But Mr. Ben Menashe, who was secretly working for the government and is the main state witness, said Mr. Tsvangirai wanted him to kill Mugabe.
The trial comes a week ahead of the first of six World Cup cricket matches scheduled for Zimbabwe. The event has been criticized as an inappropriate spectacle in a nation wracked by political unrest, and acute fuel and food shortages.
What a joke!
When Mandela was convicted?
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