Biti lawyers accuse magistrate of incompetence; to challenge ruling at the High Court

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By Court Reporter

OPPOSITION MDC Alliance principal Tendai Biti will next week approach the High Court challenging a Harare magistrate’s ruling dismissing his application for permanent stay of prosecution.

Biti was arrested following a dramatic but failed bid to seek political asylum in Zambia, having fled to the neighbouring country saying his life was in danger.

He was wanted by the police over allegations of illegally announcing the results of the July 30 presidential ballot and inciting the deadly post-election violence which left six people dead.

When he first appeared in court, Biti denied the charges and, further, challenged the jurisdiction of local courts over the matter saying his arrest violated international law.

However, on Friday magistrate Francis Mapfumo said the former finance minister was arrested while trying to flee prosecution over crimes he committed on July 31 this year.

“It is not in dispute that the accused was handed to the police by immigration officers so in this case the police did not violate the law. There was no violation of international law since he was arrested while still in the country,” ruled the magistrate.

“What the accused uttered in announcing that MDC Alliance leader (Nelson Chamisa) was the winner (of the elections) was indeed violation of the law.

“No evidence was shown in the court to indicate that even (his) relatives were harassed as no case was ever reported anywhere.

“Court finds there is no basis to permanently stay this case and his application therefore has no basis.”

After the ruling, Biti’s lawyer Alec Muchadehama accused the magistrate of incompetence, arguing the judge failed to interpret circumstances surrounding Biti’s arrest.

“So, now we are going to the High Court to have the ruling reviewed because on the basis that as far as we are concerned his judgement was grossly unreasonable.

“We believe he did not quiet appreciate the issues that we submitted before the court,” said Muchadehama.

The court however allowed an application by the former finance minister for relaxation of his bail conditions.

Biti will now be reporting twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays at the police. He had, initially, been ordered to report twice everyday between 6 am and 6 pm.

Muchadehama said the stringent conditions were no longer necessary, considering there were other measures put in place by the court to ensure that his client does not abscond.

“The conditions don’t serve any purpose. The accused was arrested on the 9th of august and has been religiously reporting confirming that he is a person who abide by court orders,” said the lawyer.

Prosecuting, Jonathan Murombedzi said the trial will commence soon, as Biti’s accomplices have been arrested.

Murombedzi is being assisted by prosecutor Justin Uladi and Michael Reza while Muchadehama is representing Biti together with Beatrice Mtetwa, Harrison Nkomo, Gift Mtisi and Jeremiah Bamu among many other rights lawyers.

Biti is expected back in court on October 2 for his routine remand.