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Security Service Intimidated State Prosecutors in Zimbabwe Arms Case

Agents of Zimbabwe's feared Central Intelligence Organization forced suspects in the alleged presidential assassination plot in the eastern city of Mutare to sign documents corroborating a 12-page confession by the accused ringleader that implicated the political opposition, according to sources well informed about the case.

These sources, speaking on condition they not be named, said two lawyers attached to attorney general's office, Florence Ziyambi and Joseph Jagada, fled Monday night from Mutare back to Harare after coming under heavy pressure by CIO operatives to use the confession of Michael Peter Hitschmann to connect the alleged conspiracy to assassinate President Robert Mugabe to the Movement for Democratic Change.

A Mutare police source said there was a "drama" at the Mutare Central Police Station as five CIO agents accused the two state lawyers of supporting the opposition MDC when they questioned the affidavits signed by the accused under duress.

At another point, the lawyers insisted that the agents suspend interrogation and leave the room where the suspects were held so they could talk to their lawyers.

Sources said CIO agents and police later threatened to arrest state attorneys when they refused to surrender the affidavits, which were said to have been "doctored." The assistant prosecutors later used the affidavits to convince Attorney General Sobhuza Gula Ndebele that there was not enough evidence to pursue the case against the members of the opposition, who included one sitting member of parliament.

Prosecutor Levison Chikafu is said to have sought clearance from Harare to release some of the suspects on bail, though the Mutare high court subsequently dismissed charges against MDC parliamentarian Giles Mutsekwa and two other men. A fourth opposition official had been released without charges earlier in the week.

The former suspects declined to comment on the allegations about the CIO's role.

Reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe asked lawyer advocate Eric Matinenga, who has handled high-profile cases including the 2004 treason trial of MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai (in which he was acquitted), about the involvement of the security service in the judicial process.

MDC Youth Chairman for Manicaland Knowledge Nyamuka, released with Mutseka on Wednesday, said he and fellow activist Thando Sibanda were tortured by soldiers into admitting the opposition joined in a plot to assassinate President Mugabe.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...