Zim produces weapons in anti-Mugabe plot case

HARARE – Zimbabwean prosecutors on Thursday produced a list of more weapons they say were stockpiled by an ex-soldier plotting to assassinate President Robert Mugabe, delaying his trial, the soldier’s lawyer said.

Peter Hitschmann, a soldier under t

he former white government of Rhodesia — Zimbabwe’s name before independence in 1980 — was arrested in March with six others including an opposition legislator after police discovered an arms cache at Hitschmann’s home in the eastern border city of Mutare.

Hitschmann denied the charges.

The trial was due to start on Thursday but was postponed after the list of extra weapons such as teargas canisters and flares, allegedly found at Hitschmann’s house, caught the defence unaware, Hitschmann’s lawyer Eric Matinenga said.

“Just before the trial opened the prosecution gave me an additional list of weapons which were allegedly in Hitschmann’s house but which my client is unaware of,” Matinenga told Reuters from the trial venue in Mutare.

Matinenga said in his defence outline handed to court that Hitschmann was tortured while at an army barrack in Mutare.

“That was part of our defence and the court took note of that,” said Matinenga. “For example he was viciously kicked in his testicles resulting in him blacking out,” he added, reading from the court submissions. He did not say who tortured Hitschmann.

Hitschmann is being charged with breaching the country’s tough security laws and could face life in prison if convicted.

The government says the arms cache found at Hitschmann’s home included AK-47 automatic rifles, machine guns, shotguns, pistols, revolvers, tear gas canisters, flares, thousands of rounds of ammunition and a two-way radio communications system.

Police say the arms were discovered on March 6, after Mugabe’s 82nd birthday celebrations in February, but have also said investigations into the alleged plot had started earlier.

A Harare High Court in March denied Hitschmann bail arguing that he was likely to flee.

Hitschmann is a licensed arms dealer but prosecutors say his licence was strictly for non-military weapons. His defence is arguing that the retrieved weapons had insufficient firepower to overthrow a government.

The state argues that the weapons were meant to be used to disrupt Mugabe’s 82nd birthday celebrations in Mutare, where the veteran leader was feted at a stadium by thousands of supporters of his ruling ZANU-PF party. — Reuter