Biti’s court jurisdiction challenge ruling set for this Friday

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By Mary Taruvinga

MDC Alliance co-principal Tendai Biti, who faces charges of contravening the Electoral Act and inciting public violence, will know his fate this Friday when Harare magistrate Francis Mapfumo delivers his ruling on an application he filed while challenging court’s authority to try him.

Biti was arrested early this month at Chirundu Border Post when he was trying to escape to Zambia.

The state says he had a hand in the protest over election results by MDC Alliance supporters early this month, which saw the army shoot indiscriminately as protesters and by-standers, resulting in the death of six civilians.

He is also accused of unlawfully announcing that MDC Alliance leader, Nelson Chamisa had won the July 30 elections when it was only the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) which was mandated to do so.

Biti is challenging his arrest arguing that he was unlawfully abducted by Zimbabwean authorities from Zambian territory, where the local courts had granted his bid to seek asylum.

He also told court that he was arrested on Zambian land, and as such, the state had no authority to prosecute him according to international law.

It his submissions that he feels betrayed by Zambia after it allowed him to be deported back to Zimbabwe from where he had fled at the height of a state crackdown on opposition leaders and their supporters.

However, state prosecutor Justin Uladi said Biti’s charges were purely criminal and as such, there was no need for him to seek political asylum anywhere.

He said evidence will be produced that Biti was arrested on the Zimbabwean side of Chirundu Border Post and that he was a fugitive.

Biti still insists the MDC Alliance won the just ended election adding he would not be deterred to publicly repeat the controversial declaration.

The magistrate was ready to make his ruling on Thursday but he deferred it to Friday after Biti’s lawyers submitted more heads of arguments which the court wanted to consider before arriving at a fresh ruling.

Biti is being represented by human rights lawyers including Beatrice Mtetwa, Harrison Nkomo, Gift Mtisi, Jeremiah Bamu and Alec Muchadehama among others.

Uladi is being assisted by prosecutor Jonathan Murombedzi and Michael Reza.