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Tsvangirai lawyers were confident of acquittal

Lawyers for Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai, secretary general Welshman Ncube and legislator Renson Gasela, who were facing treason charges for allegedly plotting to assassinate President Robert Mugabe, were confident that their clients would be acquitted.

George Bizos and Innocent Chagonda both said Judge Paddington Garwe would find it difficult to convict the trio because the State evidence presented so far had been very weak.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 03HARARE946, STATE WITNESSES HELP DEFENSE AS TSVANGIRAI TREASON

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

03HARARE946

2003-05-16 10:09

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 SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000946

 

SIPDIS

 

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER

LONDON FOR C. GURNEY

PARIS FOR C. NEARY

NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2013

TAGS: PGOV PHUM PINR ZI

SUBJECT: STATE WITNESSES HELP DEFENSE AS TSVANGIRAI TREASON

TRIAL RESUMES

 

REF: A. HARARE 568

B. HARARE 484

C. HARARE 360

D. HARARE 313

E. HARARE 250

 

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

 

Summary:

——–

 

1. (C) The treason trial of MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai,

MDC Secretary General Welshman Ncube, and MDC Shadow Minister

of Agriculture Renson Gasela resumed on May 12 for its ninth

week after a month-long recess. The Defense intends to move

for acquittal by the end of May, and the judge will likely

weigh carefully his own career longevity in his decision.

End Summary.

 

2. (C) The treason trial of MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai,

MDC Secretary General Welshman Ncube, and MDC Shadow Minister

of Agriculture Renson Gasela resumed on May 12 for its ninth

week after a month-long recess. According to lead defense

attorney George Bizos, based on the State’s weak evidence

presented so far, the defense intends to move for dismissal

by the end of May; on May 15 Tsvangirai said he was confident

that he would be acquitted. Another defense lawyer, Innocent

Chagonda, was also confident this week that judge Garwe would

find it difficult to convict Tsvangirai.

 

3. (U) On May 12 and 13, the defense continued its

cross-examination of Assistant Police Commissioner Moses

Magandi. The State’s star witness Ari Ben Menashe previously

said that he had informed Magandi, while they were traveling

to England for a meeting with Tsvangirai, that he was going

to the DRC later to meet with Rupert Johnson. But Magandi

denied this week that Menashe told him of his trip to the

DRC. Bizos also questioned Magandi on whether he had

informed his superiors that the videotape did not show

Tsvangirai saying that he wanted to “assassinate” President

 

SIPDIS

Mugabe. Magandi admitted that he did not. When Bizos asked

Magandi if there were any special identifying marks on the

videotape and the audiotape that could be used to confirm

that the tapes in front of them were the correct tapes,

Magandi admitted that there were no special marks. However,

he refused to admit that it would have been easy for anyone

to change the tapes.

 

4. (U) The prosecution then introduced the next state

witness, Central Investigation Department (CID) Officer

Stephen Mutamba. Although Mutamba admitted that the quality

of the audiotape was poor, except for one part, he still

managed to read from a police transcript what the police

believed Ben Menashe to have said at the second London

meeting. During his cross-examination by the defense,

Mutamba admitted that he had only been looking for evidence

that would incriminate Morgan Tsvangirai and ignored evidence

that Tsvangirai had not said anything about “assassinating”

Mugabe.

 

5. (C) In circumstances where it was obvious that Ben Menashe

had lied, Magandi and Mutamba preferred to say that they did

not know what Ben Menashe had said. Based on misstatements

Magandi made, the state appeared to have coached the second

witness, Mutamba, and he was better prepared for

cross-examination.

 

6. (U) Although the attendance in court was poor at first,

toward the end of the week it increased steadily. On May 12,

nine members of the MDC women’s league were arrested after

they were denied entry to the High Court allegedly because

they were not dressed appropriately; they were wearing MDC

t-shirts.

 

Comment:

——–

 

7. (C) Both witnesses’ testimony appeared to benefit the

defense more than the prosecution even though they were State

witnesses. Under apolitical circumstances we would be

confident of acquittal. However, the circumstances are not

apolitical. The central questions the GOZ and Judge Garwe

faces are whether there is any basis under the law for a

conviction, what would be the political fallout of convicting

Tsvangirai with such flimsy evidence, and whether the Supreme

 

SIPDIS

Court would overturn the conviction (which the defense would

surely appeal). Judge Garwe, current Judge President of the

High Court, must also be pondering if his career will outlast

the current regime, and the potential damage of a conviction

for his own reputation. End Comment.

WHITEHEAD

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