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Zimbabwe Police Again Raid Home of Opposition Leader - 2004-08-02


Zimbabwe police raided the home of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai over the weekend, saying they were looking for weapons. The opposition leader, who has been on trial for treason for more than two years, is a frequent target of Zimbabwe police.

The police said they were looking for weapons at his home in order to ensure peaceful parliamentary elections early next year.

Mr. Tsvangirai has survived numerous attacks and has been raided many times, both at his home and at the Movement for Democratic Change's city center office. He described the weekend raid as "relentless persecution" which would fail to break the spirit of the MDC.

He is charged with high treason, which in Zimbabwe carries a possible death sentence. Judgment in his treason trial was supposed to be delivered last Thursday, but has been delayed indefinitely. Mr. Tsvangirai's defense lawyers say they were informed by the court that two assessors, who presided over the case, stopped the judgment because they needed a copy of the long transcript of the trial. According to senior lawyers in Zimbabwe, the only interpretation of the request for the transcript is that the two assessors discovered that Judge Paddington Garwe was going to deliver a judgment without consulting them. Assessors in Zimbabwe cannot make legal judgments, but they can a make decisions on the facts of the case and vote on the final verdict. Zimbabwe's most senior legal figures said it was unprecedented that a judge would go ahead and deliver a verdict without the votes of the assessors.

Adrian de Bourbon, a former chairman of Zimbabwe's bar council, said he had never come across a case like this in his 30 years of practice.

Mr. Tsvangirai was arrested three weeks before the disputed presidential elections of March 2002, in which President Robert Mugabe won six more years in power.

The opposition leader was accused of plotting to assassinate Mr. Mugabe, a charge he denies. Two men accused with him were acquitted late last year for lack of evidence.

Since then Mr. Tsvangirai has been free on bail, but still has to report to the police every week. He has also had to surrender his passport.