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MDC mobilised old women to support Tsvangirai during his trial

The Movement for Democratic Change mobilised about 30 women aged between 45 and 60 to attend the trial of party leader Morgan Tsvangirai to show support because interest in the trial was waning as it entered its fifth week.

A cable by the United States embassy said the women were in court for two days and if it weren’t for these women the lower gallery would have been half full.

The upper gallery was empty.

Interest among reporters was also waning and there were no more than seven reporters present on average.

Tsvangirai, MDC secretary general Welshman Ncube and legislator Renson Gasela were facing treason charges for allegedly plotting to assassinate President Robert Mugabe.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 03HARARE568, GOOD BYE ARI, HELLO TARA: TSVANGIRAI TRIAL PART V

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

03HARARE568

2003-03-19 12:56

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.

 

191256Z Mar 03

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000568

 

SIPDIS

 

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER

LONDON FOR C. GURNEY

PARIS FOR C. NEARY

NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/18/2013

TAGS: PGOV PHUM ZI

SUBJECT: GOOD BYE ARI, HELLO TARA: TSVANGIRAI TRIAL PART V

 

REF: A. HARARE 484

 

B. HARARE 360

C. HARARE 313

D. HARARE 259

 

Classified By: POLITICAL OFFICER KIMBERLY JEMISON FOR REASONS 1.5 B & D

 

——–

Summary

——–

 

1. (C) The treason trial of Movement for Democratic Change

(MDC) officials Morgan Tsvangirai, Welshman Ncube, and Renson

Gasela, which entered its fifth week on March 10, took a step

forward with the completion of the questioning of Ari Ben-

Menashe, the state’s star witness. The pace of the trial

quickened considerably once the next witness, Ben-Menashe,s

personal assistant, Tara Thomas, took the stand. At first,

her testimony seemed to favor the prosecution’s case, but by

week’s end it was difficult to tell which side was benefiting

from her testimony. End Summary.

 

——————-

No More Ben-Menashe

——————-

 

2. (U) On March 11, lead defense attorney George Bizos,

Deputy Attorney General Bharat Patel, and Presiding Judge

Garwe completed their questioning of the state’s star

witness, Ari Ben-Menashe. Bizos completed his

cross-examination on March 10, after asking Ben-Menashe final

questions about Dickens and Madson,s (D&M) amateurish

production of the videotape, requesting the original

videotape and some faxes, and objecting to Ben-Menashe

leaving the court without first submitting these pieces of

evidence. Patel began the re-direct examination on March 10

with questions about Ben-Menashe,s educational and

professional background, clearly trying to prove the

witness’s competence to manage a political consulting firm.

He finished on March 11 asking questions about passages on

the videotape, the affidavit Ben-Menashe gave to the police,

Foreign Agents Registration Act registration, and what D&M

would be expected to do if hired by the MDC.

 

—————————–

Witness Number 2: Tara Thomas

—————————–

 

3. (U) On March 11, the state called its next witness, Tara

Thomas, personal assistant to Ben-Menashe. Thomas appeared

to be a much better witness than Ben-Menashe. She was

relaxed and respectful to the court, unlike Ben-Menashe.

During the direct examination, Thomas seemed composed and

tried to be as specific in her details as possible, although

she did often confused testimony several times. Patel asked

Thomas about the audiotaped meeting with Tsvangirai in

England and the transcript of the meeting. Patel went over

the second transcript of the Montreal meeting with her and

also reviewed the videotape.

 

4. (U) On March 12, the defense brought a motion before the

judge to have Thomas view the videotape using a clean

transcript rather than the annotated one she had been using,

which appeared to have been guiding her testimony. Garwe

upheld the defense objection and the prosecution had to find

a clean copy. Patel asked her several speculative questions

about what she thought Alexander Legault, his business

partner, Ben-Menashe, and Morgan Tsvangirai were thinking or

meant to say. Bizos objected that the witness could not

possibly know what the various speakers were thinking, but

his objections were overruled. Thomas confirmed that the

transcript was not accurate because they could not understand

everything on the tape.

 

5. (U) On March 14, the defense began its cross examination.

During the cross-examination, Thomas contradicted some of

the evidence that had been given by Ben-Menashe. Thomas

confirmed that a signed agreement between the MDC and

Ben-Menashe was legitimate, contrary to Ben-Menashe,s

testimony, and she contradicted Ben-Menashe on the number of

employees at D&M and what they do.

 

—————

Interest Waning

—————

 

6. (U) The courtroom was sparsely populated this past week.

The MDC mobilized a group of 30 or so female members aged 45

to 60 to attend the trial to show support. They were present

for at least two days.   If it weren’t for these women, the

lower gallery would have been half full. The upper gallery

was empty. The press area had no more than 7 reporters

present on average.

 

——-

Comment

——-

 

7. (C) Tara Thomas made for a refreshing change from

Ben-Menashe. The pace of the trial picked up considerably

without the frequent adjournments caused by Ben-Menashe’s

diatribes. While Thomas was not necessarily more credible

than Ben-Menashe, she appeared much more calm and less

combative. This could help create a sense that she is more

believable, regardless of the substance of her testimony.

The court continued to allow the prosecution’s witness

unusual latitude and did not seem to be enforcing any

acknowledged rules of evidence. End Comment.

SULLIVAN

 

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