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Tsvangirai Treason Trial Resumes in Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe, the treason trial of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has resumed in Harare. Mr. Tsvangirai and two officials of his Movement for Democratic Change party are facing charges of plotting to assassinate President Robert Mugabe.

Proceedings resumed at the High Court with the fifth state witness, Assistant Police Commissioner Moses Magandi, who was part of the investigating team, being cross-examined by the defense.

The key piece of evidence in the trial is a secretly-made tape of a meeting Mr. Tsvangirai held in Canada with chief state witness, political consultant Ari Ben-Menashe in late 2001.

Mr. Ben Menashe alleges that Mr. Tsvangirai sought his help in trying to eliminate President Mugabe. The defense, led by top South African lawyer George Bizos, contends that the barely audible tape recording was an effort to entrap Mr. Tsvangirai.

Mr. Bizos asked the police official why he did not include as evidence the transcript of an audio tape of an earlier meeting between Mr. Tsvangirai and a key prosecution witness. The prosecution charges that the plot to kill the president was also discussed at that meeting.

Mr. Magandi said he and his staff could make no sense of that tape, and as such, there was no point in submitting the tape or a transcript of it.

Mr. Tsvangirai and his co-defendants deny plotting to kill President Mugabe. If convicted, they face the death penalty.

Mr. Tsvangirai made a strong showing when he challenged Mr. Mugabe's 23-year rule in elections last year, which Mr. Mugabe won. But there were many charges of fraud, and the opposition leader refused to recognize the president's victory. He has petitioned the High Court to nullify the result and have a new election.

President Mugabe has recently said he is willing to meet with Mr. Tsvangirai, whom he previously dismissed as "a puppet of the British," to discuss the country's worsening political and economic crisis. But the president has said he will only meet with the opposition leader if Mr. Tsvangirai withdraws his petition and recognizes him as the winner of last year's election.

Mr. Tsvngirai says he is willing to meet with the president without any pre-conditions and that he has no intention of withdrawing the court case.