COURT: Biti gets ‘biased’ prosecutor axed from case; MDC deputy chair allowed Uganda travel

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By Anna Chibamu

MDC deputy national chairperson Tendai Biti had a good day in court Thursday after he secured the removal of a top prosecutor from his case and also had his passport returned for a trip to Uganda.

Biti is facing charges of inciting the August 1 post-election violence which left six people dead and several others injured.

He denies the allegations and recently submitted an application seeking the removal to lead prosecutor Michael Reza from the case, accusing the State attorney of bias.

The application was granted Thursday by Harare magistrate Gloria Takundwa whoa greed with submissions by Biti’s defence lawyers Beatrice Mtetwa, Alec Muchadehama and Jeremiah Bhamu.

“When Mr Reza was responding to the accused’s application for his recusal, he responded saying that he had responded to Biti’s affidavit in a political climate since accused had also brought out a political tone,” said Takundwa.

“Under no circumstances should a prosecutor at any stage assume a political tone or respond in a political tone. The prosecutor must at every stage remain non-partisan as required in terms of section 261(2) (a) of the constitution.

“The fact that Mr Reza responded in a political tone or climate shows that his behaviour has fallen far short of the customary standards of fairness and detachment as demanded from him.”

The magistrate added; “His (Reza’s) sentiments instilled a belief or reasonable apprehension of bias-ness on his part.

“There is a real possibility of bias on the part of Mr Reza if he continues prosecuting the accused.

“If Mr Reza maintains the position as lead prosecutor, he may well not act towards the accused with the fairness and impartiality that the administration of criminal justice demands.”

Passport returned

Meanwhile, a separate court also granted an application for variance of bail conditions to allow Biti to travel to Uganda for a meeting.

According to the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), Acting Prosecutor-General Kumbirai Hodzi, had turned down Biti’s his request for the temporary release of his passport.

“Hodzi had early this month turned down Biti’s application for the temporary release of his passport, which is currently being held by the Clerk of Court at Harare Magistrates Court as part of his bail conditions, to allow him to attend a crucial continental meeting convened by the African Organisation of Public Accounts Committees (AFROPAC) in Ugandan capital, Kampala.”

However, Harare magistrate Gloria Takundwa ordered the Clerk of Court at Harare Magistrates Court to temporarily release his passport.

“The State failed to provide cogent reasons of how granting the application for the release of Biti’s passport would jeopardize the interests of justice,” said Takundwa.

The court said Biti was unlikely to abscond trial given his parliamentary duties as a legislator for Harare East constituency.