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Zimbabwe Trial:  State's Main Witness Unable to Supply Payment Details

The treason trial of Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai continued with the defense seeking details from Canadian businessman Ari Ben-Menashe about his contract with the Zimbabwe government. The state's main witness is unable to supply details of what he did to earn $615,000.

Mr. Ben-Menashe told the Harare High Court that receipts, expenses vouchers, and other documentation connected to his contract with the Zimbabwe government had been destroyed.

The lawyer for the defense, George Bizos, said he asked for the receipts because he wanted to verify the timing and detail of Mr Ben-Menashe's contract with the Zimbabwe government.

The defense lawyer has told the court he wants to prove that the only contract Mr. Ben-Menashe had with the Zimbabwe government was to frame and discredit opposition presidential candidate, Mr. Tsvangirai, before elections last year.

Mr. Tsvangirai and two colleagues, Welshman Ncube and Renson Gasela, are accused of trying to hire Mr. Ben-Menashe to assassinate President Robert Mugabe. The report of the alleged plot was revealed a month before the presidential election.

Mr. Ben-Menashe maintains he was hired by the Zimbabwe government to do political work, after Mr. Tsvangirai asked him to assist with the alleged assassination plot.

The prosecution's main evidence is a videotape of Mr. Tsvangirai meeting with Mr. Ben-Menashe in Montreal, during which the state alleges an assassination plot was discussed.

Mr. Tsvangirai's defense says he was at the meeting in Montreal because he wanted to hire Mr. Ben-Menashe as a political lobbyist in the United States for his then fledgling political party, the Movement for Democratic Change.

Mr. Ben-Menashe would also give no details of where he is keeping $100,000 paid to him by Mr. Tsvangirai for the alleged lobbying contract.

Mr. Ben-Menashe lodged an affidavit with the court asking for permission to go to home to Canada for two weeks on personal business. The judge is expected to rule on the application Thursday.