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Too early to celebrate!

Innocent Chagonda, the lawyer for Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai in his treason case, was confident about winning his case but the United States embassy warned that the stakes were high and there were signs that should worry the MDC.

Tsvangirai was facing charges of treason together with MDC secretary general Welshman Ncube and legislator Renson Gasela. They were accused of plotting to assassinate President Robert Mugabe.

“Most independent observers of Zimbabwe’s political scene have dismissed the charges as a transparent attempt to keep the pressure on Zimbabwe’s principal opposition party by forcing it to commit scarce resources to legal counsel, and that the case provided a convenient excuse to confiscate the passports of the three accused,” the embassy said.

“The MDC certainly has reason to feel confident -its legal team, led by renowned South African attorney George Bizos, is strong, and the state’s evidence is, at best, flimsy.

“However, the stakes are very high and there are signs which should worry the MDC. High Court Judge Paddington Garwe has opted to handle this case himself, and Garwe is well-known as a ruling party sympathizer.”

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 03HARARE230, FEBRUARY 3 TREASON TRIAL OF MDC PRESIDENT

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

03HARARE230

2003-01-31 10:50

2011-08-30 01:44

UNCLASSIFIED

Embassy Harare

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

UNCLAS HARARE 000230

 

SIPDIS

 

LONDON FOR CGURNEY

PARIS FOR CNEARY

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JENDAYI FRAZER

NAIROBI FOR PFLAUMER

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: PGOV PHUM PINR ASEC ZI

SUBJECT: FEBRUARY 3 TREASON TRIAL OF MDC PRESIDENT

 

 

1. The common law treason trial of three Movement for

Democratic Change (MDC) leaders — President Morgan

Tsvangirai, Secretary-General Welshman Ncube, and Member of

 

SIPDIS

Parliament Renson Gasela — is scheduled to begin in

Zimbabwe’s High Court on Monday, February 3. The trial was

originally scheduled for November 11, 2002 but was postponed

after state prosecutors failed to provide certain evidence

requested by the defense attorneys. The GOZ is alleging

that, in the months leading to the March 2002 presidential

election, the three MDC officials plotted the assassination

of President Mugabe with a lobbying firm headed by notorious

businessman Ari Ben-Menashe.

 

2. Innocent Chagonda, a member of the MDC’s legal team, was

confident about the defense’s case when we spoke to him on

January 30. He seemed to relish the prospect of

cross-examining principal GOZ witness Ben-Menashe, whose

credibility likely will not be difficult to impugn. He even

suspected that Ben-Menashe might not appear at trial, as

prosecutors refused to share their witness list.

 

Comment

——-

 

3. Most independent observers of Zimbabwe’s political scene

have dismissed the charges as a transparent attempt to keep

the pressure on Zimbabwe’s principal opposition party by

forcing it to commit scarce resources to legal counsel, and

that the case provided a convenient excuse to confiscate the

passports of the three accused. The MDC certainly has reason

to feel confident — its legal team, led by renowned South

African attorney George Bizos, is strong, and the state’s

evidence is, at best, flimsy.   However, the stakes are very

high and there are signs which should worry the MDC. High

Court Judge Paddington Garwe has opted to handle this case

himself, and Garwe is well-known as a ruling party

sympathizer. In fact, Garwe dismissed several MDC challenges

to 2000 parliamentary election results although the

opposition party presented overwhelming evidence of political

violence and electoral manipulation. Under common law, Garwe

will have significant leeway in determining whether to

convict — he would be more constrained had Tsvangirai been

charged under a particular statute with treason — and in

determining the length of any prison sentence should there be

a conviction.

 

 

SULLIVAN

(4 VIEWS)

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