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Treason Trial of Zimbabwean Opposition Leaders to Continue Next Week - 2003-02-07

The treason trial of Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and two senior officials of his Movement for Democratic Change party continues next week. The judge told the state's key witness he must stay in the Zimbabwean capital.

The prosecution's star witness, Ari Ben Menashe, had indicated that he could only be in Harare until Friday afternoon at the latest, as he has some serious commitments to attend to. But the judge said he must stay.

Earlier, the judge had ruled that some of the papers the defense presented in court, including some newspaper articles, were not acceptable as evidence. But he said the defense can cross-examine the witness on the contents of articles, which allege that Mr. Menashe is not a reliable witness. Transcripts of interviews with Mr. Menashe were, however, accepted as evidence.

Defense lawyer George Bizos said the documents show that Mr. Menashe has a history of making claims that were later proved to be false, relating to elections in two other countries, the United States and Australia.

The defense also alleged that Mr. Menashe's Canadian-based political consultancy firm, Dickens and Madson, had failed to honor contracts with the governments of Belarus, Russia, Ghana and Zambia.

It also says Mr. Menashe signed a public relations contract with the security chief of the government of Zimbabwe in January 2002, that involved an initial $100,000 paid upon signing. Mr. Bizos asked that the prosecution obtain from the government of Zimbabwe all the papers pertaining to Mr. Menashe's account, and produce them to the court on Monday.

Mr. Menashe claims that, before last year's Zimbabwean presidential elections, the three opposition Movement for Democratic Change officials, who are now on trial, offered him a large amount of money to assassinate President Robert Mugabe, and make it look like an accident.

Mr. Tsvangirai and his co-defendants, Movement for Democratic Change Secretary-General Welshman Ncube and member of parliament Renson Gasela, deny the charges. They face the death penalty if found guilty of treason.