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Britain said it could not assist in death penalty case

The British government told Zimbabwe’s attorney-general’s office that it could not give any assistance in a death penalty case.

The British government was responding to a request for assistance with a witness in the treason trial of Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

The attorney-general’s office had requested assistance in securing testimony from one of the state witnesses Rupert Johnson.

Tsvangirai’s trail, in which he was being accused of trying to assassinate President Mugabe, had been dragging on for a year.

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 04HARARE334, TSVANGIRAI TREASON TRIAL NEARS COMPLETION

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

04HARARE334

2004-02-25 13:55

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L HARARE 000334

 

SIPDIS

 

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER, D. TEITELBAUM

LONDON FOR C. GURNEY

PARIS FOR C. NEARY

NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2014

TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM PINR ZI MDC

SUBJECT: TSVANGIRAI TREASON TRIAL NEARS COMPLETION

 

REF: A. HARARE 124 AND PREVIOUS

B. FEB 23 UNCLASS EMAIL FROM BESMER TO M. RAYNOR

 

Classified By: Political Officer Audu Besmer for reasons 1.5 b/d

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: On February 24, the State concluded its case

in the treason trial of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

The Defense was expected to complete its concluding arguments

on February 26, but we would not expect a decision from the

judge for some time. END SUMMARY.

 

2. (C) On February 24, the prosecution entered two new

documents into evidence. The first document was a response

from the UK to a request for assistance from the Attorney

General’s Office in securing the testimony of Rupert Johnson.

A diplomat here said that the British Home Office had

responded to the request (of months ago) with follow-up

questions on whether testimony could be taken in the UK, or

would Rupert Johnson have to travel to Zimbabwe. She said

the Home Office also responded that it could not give

assistance in a death penalty case–all part of a standard

response to such a query. The diplomat said she thought the

Attorney General’s Office had not been very aggressive in

pursuing Johnson’s testimony as there was no response to the

follow-up questions. Other legal observers have noted that

is unclear which side would benefit from Johnson taking the

stand.

 

3. (SBU) The second document the prosecution entered was a

letter from Ari Ben Menashe concerning discrepancies that may

have arisen between his testimony in the treason trial and a

submission by Dickens & Madson made recently to a Montreal

court. Legal observers noted that the letter might not carry

great weight with the Court, since Menashe was not here to be

cross-examined on its contents.

 

4. (U) Acting Attorney General Bharat Patel proceeded to sum

up the State’s case by going over the testimony of each of

the state witnesses and also the audio and video evidence.

He said there was a case against Tsvangirai, and that the

testimony of Ari Ben-Menashe was credible.

 

5. (U) The defense started its concluding arguments on the

afternoon of February 24 and continued on February 25. In

its 75-page submission, the defense argued that there was no

case against Tsvangirai. Ben-Menashe was not a credible

witness and his testimony could not be relied on. Defense

lawyer Innocent Chagonda said he expected they would complete

their arguments by the afternoon of February 25.

 

6. (C) COMMENT: The trial has dragged on since February

2003, and the State’s ongoing strategy has been to prolong

the proceedings as much as possible. After the defense

concludes its arguments, The case will be in Judge Garwe’s

hands. Although it is possible he could render a decision in

a matter of weeks, it is more likely he will wait for months

or even a year or more to make an announcement. Delay

preserves a ruling party bargaining chip–dismissal of the

case–in any interparty talks. Observers have opined that

the State would have a difficult time convicting Tsvangirai

on such flimsy evidence, and that it would not want a

conviction for fear of a public backlash. We, however, could

see a conviction as possible, given the politicized nature of

justice here and Mugabe’s efforts to de-legitimize the MDC

and Tsvangirai in particular.

SULLIVAN

(20 VIEWS)

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