THE trial of High Court judge Justice Benjamin Paradza by an international tribunal took an unexpected twist this week when the accused jurist sought a court order to halt proceedings of the tri
bunal on grounds that his rights had been violated.
The application threatens the hearing of the case by a three-member team of Supreme Court judges from Zambia, Tanzania and Malawi.
Justice Lavender Makoni, who heard the application, yesterday reserved judgement until today when she will decide whether or not the tribunal should reconvene. Cited as respondents in Paradza’s application are the three judges, Justice minister Patrick Chanamasa and President Mugabe.
The tribunal, which was sworn in by Mugabe two weeks ago started work on Monday at the Sheraton Hotel, albeit in camera which Para-dza’s lawyers immediately challe-nged. The lawyers led by Jonathan Samkange also expressed disquiet over the manner of the appoint-ment of the tribunal led by Justice Dennis Kamoni Chirwa of Zambia.
The other two jurists are Justices John Mroso and Isaac Mtambo of Tanzania and Malawi respectively. Members of the tribunal have agreed to adjourn temporarily pending the High Court ruling.
Court documents show President Mugabe originally (February 12) issued the advice that the case should “not be held in public”. However, the Independent heard yesterday that Mugabe has now amended the advice to ensure the trial is open to the public.
On Tuesday Chinamasa told the Independent that “the government had no problem allowing the case to be opened to the public”.
On Monday the defence lawyers indicated that they wanted to file an application challenging the constitutionality of the tribunal and the presidential advice. The judge is also challenging the method used by the state to gather the evidence that the tribunal was set to use. The state’s evidence-in-chief is a transcript of a taped conversation between Paradza and another High Court judge, Justice Mafios Cheda.
On Tuesday Paradza’s lawyers filed papers in a High Court application seeking to halt the tribunal from hearing the case pending an application in the Supreme Court where they want to raise constitutional arguments.
Paradza’s lawyers said corres-pondence between Chinamasa and the governments of Malawi, Zambia and Tanzania showed that the minister had exercised the powers of the president in appointing the tribunal, which they aver was unconstitutional.
He would also like to challenge the secret recording of the con-versation with Cheda, which he said infringed on his rights as it was “unconstitutionally obtained”.
In the recording Paradza alle-gedly sought to influence Cheda to make a ruling on his business partner Russell Labuschagne whose passport had been seized by the state as part of bail conditions in a murder trial.
The state alleges that Paradza wanted Cheda to alter Labuschag-ne’s bail conditions so that he could get his passport back and travel to Europe where he was set to collect hunters for a safari.