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Eight Charged With Plotting To Assassinate President Mugabe

In Zimbabwe, eight men, including an opposition legislator, have been charged with plotting to assassinate President Robert Mugabe. Peta Thornycroft, in this VOA report from Harare, has more on the court proceedings in the eastern city of Mutare.

Prosecutor Levson Chikafu said the eight men held several meetings in the last five years, allegedly to discuss a number of plots against President Mugabe and the government.

He said the police found an arms cache at the Mutare home of one of the accused, Michael Hitschmann, who the court heard had implicated others in a statement he made shortly after his arrest.

Trust Manda, Hitschmann's lawyer, said his client made a statement under duress, after being held incommunicado for 48 hours.

He said Hitschmann was a licensed firearms dealer, but that his client had not had an opportunity to check whether the weapons confiscated by the police belonged to him.

Giles Mutsekwa, a member of parliament for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, was also arrested, along with two opposition provincial leaders.

Lawyers claimed that four of those arrested last week were tortured, when they were being held initially at army barracks.

Police claim the suspects were linked to a shadowy organization, allegedly based in London, called the Zimbabwe Freedom Movement.

The state has linked this organization to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

The MDC has denied it has links with any violent group or plot against President Mugabe. It says the arrests are an attempt to destabilize an opposition congress it plans to hold next week.

Lawyers for the eight have applied to court for their release, on the grounds there is no reasonable case against them. A decision will be handed down Wednesday.

There have been several cases over the last quarter century when scores of people have been arrested and charged with treason and of plotting to assassinate Mr. Mugabe. None of the cases has ever been proven.