ZAMBIA ORDEAL: Biti’s lawyer bashed by soldiers, vehicle vandalised

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By Mary Taruvinga

A HUMAN rights lawyer accompanying MDC Alliance principal Tendai Biti as he fled to Zambia was bashed by Zimbabwean soldiers, a Harare court heard on Monday.

The former finance minister made a dramatic attempt to seek political asylum in Zambia in the deadly aftermath of the July 30 elections.

He was accused of inciting violence after opposition supporters took to the streets of the capital protesting the election results.

Six people died as the army fired into the crowds to disperse the demonstrators.

The Zambia government rejected Biti’s asylum bid and sent him back to Harare.

As his case continued Monday, defence lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa revealed that human rights attorney Unite Saize who accompanied Biti to Zambia was assaulted by soldiers.

Mtetwa was cross-examining investigating officer Jealousy Mabasa.

Defence lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa

Said Mtetwa; “What would be your comment if I put it to you that members of your team driving from Chirundu (border post) intercepted the car of the lawyer who was accompanying the accused and deflated his car tyres before they confiscated his phone and assaulted him while ordering him to strop trailing their convoy.”

Mabasa said there were no soldiers in his convoy, adding that he was not aware of the said incident.

“We only stopped once during our journey,” he said.

“We stopped in Karoi to have our tyres serviced and never stopped again until we reached Harare.

“I would urge Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) to investigate that crime if it happened.”

According to Biti’s lawyers, their client was accompanied by Saize so that the latter could assist with legal issues during his trip.

Mtetwa said after Biti was abducted from Zambia by the Zimbabwean army, the Saize followed the convoy to ensure that the former finance minister was safe.

Saize was then attacked by the abductors before they reached Karoi was ordered to stop following the convoy or risk his life.

It also emerged during cross examination there was no a hand-over certificate from the Zambian police to the Zimbabwean police or a deportation order.

Denied family contact

Prosecutors said that this was because Biti was arrested while still in Zimbabwe not Zambia as he claims.

It also emerged that Biti was barred from communicating with his lawyers and family members upon arrest.

The investigating officer said he did this “to protect” opposition politician.

“The accused told me that he was receiving threats from Zambian numbers,” explained Mabasa.

“So, I sensed that his life was in danger. I did not want any harm to befall him before he could appear in this court. It was my right to protect him.”

Biti is answering to a charge of contravening the Electoral Act after he announced that MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa won the July presidential election.

He is accused of inciting public violence.

The opposition leader is however challenging his arrest and the jurisdiction of the court to try him.

He contends that his case is unlawfully before a Zimbabwean court as he was arrested in Zambia.