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Zimbabwe Air Force Chief Testifies in Tsvangirai Trial - 2003-06-24


In the ongoing treason trial of Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, the country's air force chief has testified that he was offered money to pacify the armed forces if President Robert Mugabe lost last year's presidential election.

Air Marshall Perence Shiri told the High Court that two members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change offered him about about $20,000 (U.S.) if he would work to convince his colleagues in the armed forces to accept Mr. Tsvangirai as president.

The Air Marshall said he refused the offer. The defense said the opposition leaders on trial had never offered any money to Commander Shiri.

The commander is the eighth state witness to give evidence in a trial in which Mr. Tsvangirai and two colleagues are accused of plotting to assassinate President Mugabe before last year's election.

The charges, which the three men deny, hinge on a videotape of a meeting Mr. Tsvangirai had with Canadian businessman Ari Ben Menashe during which the opposition leader allegedly asked him to arrange Mr. Mugabe's "elimination."

One of the names mentioned on the tape is Commander Shiri's.

Before last year's presidential election, Commander Shiri was one of the top five officers who issued a statement saying they would never serve a leader who did not possess credentials from the war of independence. Mr. Tsvangirai says he played no part in that war.

In court, Commander Shiri said that his superiors authored the statement, not him.

Commander Shiri was leader of the notorious North Korean trained brigade of the Zimbabwe National Army, accused by the Catholic Church and many others, of killing thousands in the Matabeleland province in the 1980s.

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