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Biti Freed On Bail

THE High Court yesterday freed MDC secretary-general Tendai Biti on $1 trillion bail.

Biti was in detention since his arrest on June 12 at Harare International Airport after returning home from a two-month self-imposed exile in South Africa.

He was charged with treason arising from allegations that he authored a document, The Transition Strategy, plotting to overthrow or alternatively subvert the constitutionally elected government of Zimbabwe.

The state also laid three charges against him under the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, for causing disaffection among security forces, insulting the person and office of President Robert Mugabe and communicating information prejudicial to the state.

High Court judge, Justice Ben Hlatshwayo ruled in chambers that Biti should be admitted to bail as he was not likely to abscond trial when it commences at a date to be set down by the state.

Apart from paying the $1 trillion bail, Biti was ordered to surrender title deeds of his Glen Lorne home in Harare and to continue living at the house.

He was also ordered to surrender his travel documents to the court.

Hlatshwayo said Biti should not interfere with any witnesses or investigations and to report once a week at the Harare Central Police Station.

Biti’s lawyer, Selby Hwacha, said that the ruling was premised on the defence’s submission that the treason case was weak because it was based on what he called a forged document dated March 25.

“The document which the state premised its charges on was weak,” Hwacha said. “Even the judge raised reservations about that document in the bail application hearing on Wednesday.”

Hwacha said the judge was satisfied that Biti was a suitable candidate for bail given that “he is a lawyer, he has investments in the country, he is a senior member of a Zimbabwean political party, and has assets, among other things”.

On Wednesday, Hlatshwayo questioned the authenticity of The Transition Strategy document.

The judge said: “To be honest, this document makes good reading for someone who is in bed. It’s a good document for bedtime reading. I have seen a lot of glaring shortcomings on this document because some of the issues and charges are based on assumption of things that did not or will not occur. It’s a document based on ‘if this is to happen or that is to happen’. These factors have a bigger bearing on the outcome of this matter.”

Director of public prosecutions Florence Ziyambi and Chief Law Officer Joseph Jagada from the Attorney General’s Office asked the court to deny Biti bail.

Jagada told the court: “It is our submission to this honourable court that the accused should not be admitted to bail because he is not a good candidate for bail. It is our submission that should the court grant him bail, the accused is likely to abscond trial as he has established contacts that can help him escape the country and never return.”

By Nkululeko Sibanda

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