Biti to appeal conviction and sentence, says not a ‘criminal’

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By Mary Taruvinga

MDC top official and MP, Tendai Biti has vowed to appeal against his Monday conviction and sentence while insisting he was not a criminal.

Biti, who was accused of announcing results of last July’s elections in violation of the country’s electoral laws, was given a suspended six month jail term by Harare magistrate Gloria Takundwa.

He told journalists soon after emerging from the court building that he was not a criminal and did not deserve the treatment he has received from the state.

His lawyer, Alec Muchadehama also argued that the state’s case was poor as no witness ever challenged Biti’s defence during trial.

“We are going to appeal against both conviction and sentence and the basis of our appeal is that the magistrate misdirected herself in several respects.

“Firstly, she has dismissed that she had no jurisdiction to hear the matter when in fact she had no authority to handle the case.

“The charges were unnecessarily split, but nonetheless, the magistrate convicted Tendai on both counts.

“Thirdly, the state witnesses’ evidence case was too poor to bring out a conviction,” said the human rights lawyer.

Biti escaped custodial sentence after the magistrate fined him $200 for the first count of announcing results and a suspended six-month jail term on the second count of claiming that MDC Alliance presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa had won the poll.

After his sentencing, Muchadehama insisted the opposition politician was innocent and that he was being made sacrificial lamb.

“He is not the only person who announced results. Emmerson Mnangagwa did the same. Also, Paul Mangwana but nothing happened to them.

“Even ZEC itself announced three different results but nothing happened to them. So, the accused must not be a sacrificial lamb. He must not be punished for announcing results which are not even known to date,” said Muchadehama.

On his part, Biti accused Mnangagwa of meddling with the country’s justice delivery system.

“Our country has been captured by very dangerous people,” he said.

“We have a very unstable person at the helm of the nation in the name of Mnangagwa. What has happened is very unfortunate, but we won’t accept that and will keep on fighting.”

The Harare East legislator thanked human rights lawyers for assisting him in fighting what he called “political persecution”.