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.
Viewing cable 04HARARE334, TSVANGIRAI TREASON TRIAL NEARS COMPLETION
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
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
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
¶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.