Zimbabwe activists' trial postponed

HARARE – Zimbabwe's High Court on Wednesday postponed the trial of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) activists charged with attempting to overthrow President Robert Mugabe, in a case that has strained the new government.

Four MDC members, part of a group of rights activists, including prominent campaigner Jestina Mukoko, were abducted and unlawfully detained between October and December last year, their lawyers say.

The case has been held up because the activists have applied to refer the case to the Supreme Court. On June 22, the High Court will decide on the application, said Judge Tendai Uchena. The trial is expected to start after the ruling.

Mugabe and his rival, MDC leader and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, formed a power-sharing government in February, hoping to end a political crisis after last year’s disputed election.

But the prosecution of the MDC members and rights activists, charged in May, has raised tensions in Zimbabwe’s new administration, which needs billions of dollars in international financial support to rescue the country’s ruined economy.

Western donors say aid will not flow to Zimbabwe unless a democracy is created and economic reforms are implemented.

Defence lawyers said state security agents abducted and tortured the activists, making any prosecution illegal.

"To try them in these circumstances violates their right to the protection of the law. There have been serious violations to their constitutional rights," defence lawyer Alec Muchadehama said.  

"Applicants contend that they are, themselves, victims of crimes perpetrated by the police and other security agents,"

State prosecutors accuse the activists, who have been released on bail, of trying to scuttle the trial.(Reuters)