LAWYERS representing MDC leader Arthur Mutambara and his two co-accused, who are facing contempt of court and publication of falsehoods charges, have accused the Attorney-General (AG)â€™s office of abusing its authority by selectively applying the law to â€œprosecute dissentâ€.
Mutambara and the Standard newspaper, represented by chief executive officer Rapheal Khumalo and editor Davison Maruziva, are accused of violating sections of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
The three allegedly published or communicated a statement prejudicial to the state after the weekly published an opinion piece on April 20 authored by Mutambara headlined â€œA shameful betrayal of national Independenceâ€.
They also face a contempt of court charge arising from the same article, which questioned a High Court ruling by Justice Tendai Uchena dismissing an application by the leader of the other formation of the MDC, Morgan Tsvangirai, to compel the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to release the results of the March 29 presidential election.
On Wednesday, lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, representing Mutambara, told regional magistrate Morgen Nemadire that the AGâ€™s office was using the law selectively, especially on contempt of court charges.
Mtetwa submitted to the court an article published in the Herald on March 17 2005 in which President Robert Mugabe slammed a ruling by the Electoral Court nullifying the results of a nomination court for Chimanimani constituency.
Uchena was the judge in the case.
Mugabe described the ruling as â€œmadnessâ€ and went further to say: â€œI donâ€™t understand the courtâ€™s decision.â€
Mtetwa asked why the AGâ€™s office did not push for the prosecution of Mugabe and the Herald if it was impartial.
She said the charge of contempt of court against Mutambara, Khumalo and Maruziva could not stick because the state had failed to obtain a written complaint from Uchena.
However, in response prosecutor Tawanda Zvekare told the court that the AGâ€™s office issued a statement on behalf of the judiciary and as a result was the complainant.
â€œThe judiciary itself may not be aware that they have been derided or that the statement said may be contemptuous to them,â€ Zvekare argued. â€œThe state took it upon itself to remedy this case and that is why we donâ€™t have a statement from Justice Uchena or the High Court itself.â€
Earlier this year, Master of the High Court Charles Nyatanga submitted a letter to the court saying that he issued a statement on behalf of the judiciary in response to Mutambaraâ€™s article after a request by the police.
Nyatanga later described the article as â€œcontemptuous of the judiciaryâ€.
Nemadire remanded out of custody Mutambara, Maruziva and Khumalo to November 12 when he will make aÂ ruling on whether the case should be referred to the Supreme Court as requested by the threeâ€™s lawyers.
Linda Cook and Advocate Deepak Mehta represented Maruziva and Khumalo.
By Lucia MakamureÂ