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Tsvangirai treason judgement blocked

Augustine Mukaro

ASSESSORS in Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s treason case have blocked Judge President Paddington Garwe from passing his judgement before they could review transcri

pts of the trial, the Zimbabwe Independent has gathered.

Garwe was last week obliged to indefinitely postpone the judgement when the two assessors, Major Misheck Nyandoro and Joseph Dangarembizi, demanded recorded transcripts of the proceedings. The judgement should have been handed down yesterday but had to be postponed after the assessors raised objections.

Tsvangirai is accused of plotting to assassinate President Robert Mugabe ahead of the presidential poll in 2002.

The outcome of Tsvangirai’s treason trial is crucial in efforts to find an internal settlement in Zimbabwe. Diplomatic sources this week said Nigeria and South Africa were watching the proceedings with keen interest.

Legal experts said, procedurally, assessors should have been given tapes and transcripts to enable them to make informed assessments and a meaningful contribution towards the judge’s verdict.

The experts said in the Tsvangirai case, the judge would not have made a ruling without the views of the assessors.

“A verdict is an issue of majority vote,” law lecturer and NCA head Lovemore Madhuku said. “In the case of Tsvangirai, at least two out of the three should concur on whether he is guilty or not.”

Sources in the justice system this week said the only records the assessors had were notes which they scribbled during the lengthy trial.

The sources said by late yesterday the assessors had not been availed with the necessary documentation and audiotapes.

“The assessors have not yet received the recorded transcripts they asked for,” a source said. “What this entails is that there will be a lengthy delay in handing down judgement.”

It is still not clear how a date for the judgement was set before the assessors were ready.

Tsvangirai’s trial started in February last year and ended in February this year. Charges against Tsvangirai arose from secretly recorded meetings between him and Ari Ben-Menashe, president of a Canadian-based public relations firm, Dickens & Madson, in which the idea of “eliminating” Mugabe was brought up.

Defence lawyers have argued that the videotape on which the alleged plot to assassinate Mugabe was based was defective and could not be relied on.

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