Biti trial stalls as top prosecutor sensationally attacks magistrate

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By Court Reporter

Defence lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa

THE trial of MDC deputy national chairperson Tendai Biti stalled Tuesday after it was claimed that top prosecutor Michael Reza derisively condemned the presiding judge.

The defence immediately asked the court to charge Reza with contempt. The prosecutor was recently removed from the case over political bias.

Magistrate Gloria Mtandwa was Tuesday due to present her ruling on an application by Biti for excerption to charges he is facing.

The former finance minister is accusing of inciting the deadly violence which rocked Harare after the disputed July 30 elections, as well as illegally announcing results of the presidential ballot.

The magistrate had earlier on allowed live-streaming of the proceedings following an application by Biti’s defence team which is led by Beatrice Mtetwa.

However, before ruling could be handed down on the exception application, Mtetwa asked the magistrate to find chief prosecutor Michael Reza in contempt of court.

The defence counsel read in court a phone text message allegedly sent by Reza to Thabani Mpofu, a prosecutor from the Presidential anti-corruption unit.

In the message, Reza told Mpofu that the magistrate had made a “strange” ruling allowing live-streaming of the trial without seeking authorisation from the Chief Justice.

He added that, “she is either very brave or very stupid or both”.

Mtetwa said Reza’s actions showed lack of judicial independence.

“We feel the message Mr Reza sent is contemptuous. He says the ruling is strange because you (the magistrate) was not given instructions by the Chief Justice. This shows there is lack of independence.”

The defence lawyer said the message proved that her client’s case was prejudiced since court officers take orders from the Chief Justice as suggested by the text allegedly sent by Reza.

“Clearly, court officials act on instructions; not on findings,” she said.

The magistrate said she would refer the matter to the High Court for guidance.

Meanwhile, Biti gave notice to apply for relaxation of his bail conditions awaiting the High Court guidance to the twist of the case.

He is expected in court this Wednesday morning to make the application.

The trial commenced on Monday.

The opposition politician excerpted to the charges he is facing saying they do not constitute a crime.

He complained that there was unnecessary splitting of the charges since they mean the same thing.