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Key Witness in Zimbabwe Trial Barred From Leaving Country - 2003-02-14

The judge in the treason trial of Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has ruled for the second time since the trail began that the state's key witness cannot leave Zimbabwe.

Judge Paddington Garwe ruled in favor of the defense, which argued that allowing the state's star witness, Ari Ben Menashe, to be excused before the end of his cross-examination would be disruptive and prejudicial.

Mr. Ben-Menashe had appealed to the court to be allowed to go back to Canada for two weeks to attend to what he called "pressing personal and business matters." The judge said it was not possible to consider his request, without knowing the specific nature of the commitments.

Friday's cross-examination of Mr. Ben Menashe was once again characterized by his refusal to answer many straightforward questions. He said he did not remember the details he was being asked to furnish.

The judge asked Mr. Ben Menashe several times to stick to what had been asked. He was also told to mind his language, as he continued to insult Mr. Tsvangirai and his two co-defendants, whom he has called 'stupid criminals' and 'terrorists.'

He also refused to answer certain questions, saying "the video speaks for itself." The video in question shows a meeting at which, he says Mr. Tsvangirai asked for help in assassinating President Robert Mugabe and arranging a coup d'etat in Zimbabwe.

Mr. Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, and his two co-defendants, Welshman Ncube and Renson Gasela deny the allegations against them. If found guilty of treason, they face the death sentence.