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6 Opposition Members Acquitted in Zimbabwe Murder Trial - 2004-08-06


Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change is celebrating a victory following the acquittal of six party members accused of murdering an official of the ruling ZANU-PF party. During the marathon trial, the judge said the state's only witnesses, the police, had lied.

High Court trial judge Sandra Mungwira said the police evidence in the trial was "a work of fiction." The six MDC members were accused of the 2001 murder of Cain Nkala, a veteran of Zimbabwe's war for independence, who was himself awaiting trial. Accused of killing an MDC election agent.

Judge Mangwira observed that the six defendants were arrested and accused of the crime before the victim's body was even discovered, buried in a shallow grave near Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo.

Shortly after their arrest, President Robert Mugabe accused the MDC of being a terrorist organization.

The judge accepted evidence that a shadowy force, comprising secret police, soldiers and war veterans, had been controlling the police investigation. She ruled that the defendants' confessions had been extracted under torture and were invalid.

The MDC spokesman on legal affairs, David Coltart, said the nine-month trial amounted to "a very serious indictment against the police and the intelligence services."

He said the murder of Cain Nkala remained unresolved. He said history showed that the ruling Zanu-PF had a long history of killing its own members to achieve political objectives.

Defense lawyer Edith Mushore claimed that one of the accused, an MDC member of parliament, had lost the sight of one eye because his diabetes had been untreated in detention

The Zanu-PF government has not reacted to the judgment.