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Zimbabwe Prosecutors Seek to Amend Treason Charges Against Opposition Leader - 2003-12-02

Zimbabwe prosecutors asked Tuesday for treason charges against opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to be amended. The move came as the trial against the opposition leader resumed after a two-month break. Mr. Tsvangirai's legal team responded to the application by asking for his acquittal.

The treason trial against Mr. Tsvangirai is now the longest in Zimbabwe's history. He was arrested two years ago and charged, along with two senior members of his party, with plotting to assassinate President Robert Mugabe ahead of presidential elections last year.

His co-defendants were acquitted in September for lack of evidence. Now the state prosecutor says he wants the charges against Mr. Tsvangirai altered and the names of his former co-accused deleted from the state's case.

Mr. Tsvangirai's lawyers say accepting the prosecutor's motion would mean putting the opposition leader on trial on different chargers than those he had originally faced.

The prosecution now wants the charges to read that Mr. Tsvangirai plotted with Canada-based political consultant Ari Ben Menashe and staff at his Montreal offices to assassinate President Mugabe. Mr. Ben Menashe provided the Zimbabwe government with a video tape recording of a meeting he had with Mr. Tsvangirai during which, he claims, the assassination plot was hatched.

Mr. Tsvangirai has denied the charges and said he had hired Mr. Ben Menashe to promote his party's profile in North America, without knowing the consultant was already working for the Zimbabwe government.