Accessibility links

Breaking News

Zimbabwe Opens Third Week of Tsvangirai Treason Trial - 2003-02-17

In Zimbabwe, the treason trial of the country's main opposition leader and two other opposition politicians is now in its third week. On Monday, the defense charged the government with failing to supply documents to back up evidence introduced in court by the state's main witness.

Defense advocate George Bizos spent a good part of Monday trying to find out from the state's key witness, Canadian businessman Ari Ben-Menashe, what he did for the Zimbabwe government that was worth the US$615,000 he received from officials.

Mr. Ben-Menashe had earlier told the court he produced 26 reports on Zimbabwe, but the defense attorney suggested they couldn't have been worth thousands of dollars because all the information in them was already available from media reports.

The witness said he could not divulge what other work he had done for the Zimbabwe government because it was confidential. The prosecutor said he had asked for, but was not given, documents from the government with details of the work Mr. Ben-Menashe had done.

Mr. Bizos told the court it was clear that Mr. Ben-Menashe had been paid by the Zimbabwe government to entrap the accused, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, and two colleagues, Welshman Ncube and Renson Gasela.

The three are accused of trying to hire Mr. Ben-Menashe to assist in the assassination of President Robert Mugabe. Mr. Ben-Mensahe videotaped a meeting he had with the three, which he alleges proves the assassination plot. The three deny attempting to assassinate Mr. Mugabe and say Mr. Ben-Menashe is involved in an attempt to frame them.

Mr. Ben-Menashe was clearly upset by the defense questioning. Several times he leaned over from the witness box and shouted that Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai was a murderer. He also called Mr. Bizos a liar and a fantasist.

High court judge Paddington Garwe reprimanded the witness several times, asking him to stop interrupting the defense.