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Zimbabwe  Keeps Key Document from Opposition in Treason Trial - 2003-02-10

The Zimbabwe government issued a certificate of secrecy on Monday to keep a document out of the treason trial of three opposition leaders.

Security Minister Nicholas Goche signed the certificate, saying publication of the document would prejudice state security. The document is a contract between the Zimbabwe government and the state's star witness, Ari Ben Menashe.

The defense claims the contract will prove Mr. Menashe was working for the Zimbabwe government when, according to the defense, he entrapped the three opposition leaders who believed they were hiring him as a political consultant.

Mr. Menashe claimed in court last week that opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai hired him to help assassinate President Robert Mugabe and arrange a coup d'etat. The state showed a videotape of a meeting at which, Mr. Menashe claims, the arrangements were made.

Defense lawyer George Bizos said Monday there would be untold prejudice to his clients, if details of Mr. Ben Menashe's contract with the Zimbabwe government are not put before the court.

Mr. Bizos is defending Mr. Tsvangirai and two of his senior associates, Welshman Nucbe and Renson Gasela. They are all accused of treason for allegedly plotting to assassinate President Mugabe ahead of presidential elections last March.

They have denied the charge, which carries the death sentence in Zimbabwe. The trial of the three opposition leaders is expected to last another two weeks.

Meanwhile, controversy continued over the presence of foreign journalists at the trial. Last week, high court judge Paddington Garwe ordered officials to allow members of the public and journalists into the court where the opposition leaders are on trial.

But again Monday, at least one foreign journalist was refused entry to the court because officials said she did not have press accreditation. Nearly four months after they applied, most of Zimbabwe's journalists working for foreign media organisations have not been issued with accreditation by Zimbabwe's Ministry of Information.