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Murder Trial Opens in Zimbabwe; Deeper Political Divisions at Stake - 2003-01-20


Zimbabwe's High Court has begun hearing a case the government hopes will prove that the opposition Movement for Democratic Change is what the government calls a terrorist organization.

Six men, including an opposition member of parliament, are accused of murdering Cain Nkala, a veteran of Zimbabwe's war for independence, 13 months ago in the city of Bulawayo.

The state's first witness was Sikhumdudzo Nkala, who said she did not recognize any of the accused from the night she saw her husband kidnapped and bundled into a vehicle.

At the time of his death, Mr. Nkala was out of prison on bail, accused of abducting an opposition election official, who was never seen again.

Following his death, the government, including President Robert Mugabe, accused the Movement for Democratic Change of being a terrorist organization.

One of those on trial is opposition member of parliament Fletcher Dulini-Ncube, who is also treasurer general for the opposition party. He is a diabetic, and recently had an eye removed, because, his doctors say, he had inadequate medical treatment during his imprisonment on these charges.

Three of the accused, who said they signed confessions under torture, have been in prison for 14 months. Their release was ordered by the courts last year, but the prison authorities refused to obey the order.

Defense lawyers say they will show that the opposition had no motive for killing Mr. Nkala. They are going to present evidence to say that Mr. Nkala was killed by fellow war veterans, because he was going to go public with information about the abduction of an opposition election official before the general elections in 2000.

The state has more than 80 witnesses and the trial is expected to last several weeks.

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