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Zimbabwe's High Court Rules on Timeframe for Tsvangirai's Electoral Challenge - 2003-07-04

Zimbabwe's High Court ruled Friday that opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai must be given a firm date for his legal challenge to last year's presidential elections.

High Court judge Ben Hlatshwayo surprised many legal observers by giving court officials seven working days to set down a date for Mr. Tsvangirai's challenge to the re-election of President Robert Mugabe.

The High Court ruling comes 24 hours after Mr. Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, the major opposition group in Zimbabwe, petitioned the court for a date for the trial to begin. His lawyer said in the application that justice delayed was justice denied.

As required by law, Mr. Tsvangirai lodged a legal challenge to President Mugabe's election victory within 90 days of the announcement of the results. Since then, there have been many delays, each of which Mr. Tsvangirai has had to challenge in court.

The opposition leader lost the presidential elections by 15 percent of the vote, after a campaign marked by violence against the opposition.

When his challenge to the election does come to trial, Mr. Tsvangirai is expected to claim that election laws were broken during the run up to the poll, and that the constitution was violated.

The leaders of the Movement for Democratic Change said they were pleased by Friday's ruling, and that they expected the court to announce an early date for the challenge.