INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Treason Trial Continues

Published: Thu 22 Jan 2004 01:06 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS HARARE 000124
SIPDIS
SENSITIVE
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER
LONDON FOR C. GURNEY
PARIS FOR C. NEARY
NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM SOCI ZI MDC
SUBJECT: TREASON TRIAL CONTINUES
1. (SBU) SUMMARY: MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai's
treason trial resumed in the High Court on January 19. The
defense concluded its direct examination of Tsvangirai on
January 22 and the case now moves to Tsvangirai's cross-
examination by the prosecution. The trial will likely
conclude within weeks, although a court judgment may take
considerably longer with possible appeals to follow. A
sideshow to the trial revolves around the Government-
controlled Herald's fabricated report that Tsvangirai's
testimony had implicated the U.S. Government in a coup plot.
END SUMMARY
2. (SBU) On September 22, 2003, the state applied to amend
its charges to correct the discrepancies between the
indictment and the evidence introduced at trial. The defense
opposed the state application, arguing that Tsvangirai would
suffer prejudice if the indictment were changed. In his
judgment January 19, Justice Garwe allowed the state to
alter its indictment in part. Garwe did not, however, allow
it to change all the elements of its indictment as
requested. Defense attorney Innocent Chagonda told us that
the changes that Garwe allowed were immaterial and would not
serve to prejudice Tsvangirai.
3. (U) On January 19, the defense team began by putting
Morgan Tsvangirai on the stand. After testifying about his
history as a politician Tsvangirai told the court that he
did not plot to assassinate President Robert Mugabe. He
testified that he was patriotic to his country and regarded
Mugabe as the hero of the liberation struggle. Since the
case resumed, public attendance has been relatively sparse,
with the courtroom generally being less than half full.
4. (U) Proceedings January 22 began with a complaint
lodged by the defense over a front page story, "Tsvangirai
implicates US government in coup plot", in the January 22
edition of the Government-controlled Herald newspaper.
(Note: Despite the breathtaking headline, the convoluted
story recounted no testimony or evidence to that effect but
only innuendo about Tsvangirai being interested in securing
American financial support. End Note.) Justice Garwe
agreed to consider the defense's request that the Herald be
instructed to retract the story. After a full 45 minutes of
discussion on the Herald report, the defense resumed its
examination of the defendant, which it concluded by mid-day.
5. (SBU) The case now moves to cross-examination of the
defendant, after which the defense plans to put MDC
Secretary-General Welshman Ncube on the stand. MDC
SIPDIS
Secretary for Legal Affairs David Coltart told us that the
SIPDIS
defense case would likely wrap up within weeks, but that it
was difficult to predict when the court would render
judgment. Coltart said he expected Garwe ultimately to
acquit Tsvangirai but would serve the government's purposes
nonetheless by allowing the case to drag out as long as
possible and to highlight matters that would adversely
affect the MDC. He predicted that the case could drag out,
through appeals, through the year.
6. (SBU) COMMENT: It is too early to tell where the
case is going but the defense team appears to be confident
that it will prevail. For its part, the GOZ may care less
about winning and more about stringing the case out as long
as possible -- bleeding the MDC through legal fees and
preoccupying its leadership in the process. In that
respect, it already is winning. On January 21, Coltart
appealed to a host of EU diplomats for financial assistance
to help pay the party's legal fees for the treason trial and
the party's petition to overturn the results of the 2002
election. (Note: Resumption date for the election petition
has not been set but may resume by next month.) According
to Coltart, the party already is behind in payment of USD
200,000 legal fees in the treason trial and USD 60,000 in
the election contest, with the lawyers unpaid for more than
four months.
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