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Zimbabwe High Court Denies Bail To Alleged Military Coup Plotters

Zimbabwe's high court, meeting in closed session on Friday, denied bail to six men accused of conspiring to overthrow President Robert Mugabe in a coup.

Judge Tedious Karwi ordered the hearing to be closed to the public and media as requested by prosecutors who said the case was sensitive. The six, who have denied the charges, were arrested in Harare last month and charged with treason.

Karwi's decision reversed his earlier ruling to hold an open hearing. Lawyer Jonathan Samkange, one of a team of attorneys representing the defendants, argued that it was in the public interest to hear the case in an open court.

Lawyer Charles Warara told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the judge said denied bail out of concern the six would flee if released.

Prosecutors say the accused intended to take over military bases and overthrow the government, after which they intended to replace President Mugabe with Rural Housing and Social Amenities Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mnangagwa was not among those arrested and in an interview with VOA described as "stupid" any contention that he had any involvement with a coup plot.

Lawyers for the defendants said that the only collective purpose of their clients was to form a new political party.

Defense Minister Sydney Sekeramai and Army General Constantine Chiwenga have refused to comment publicly about the alleged coup.

Elsewhere, spokesman Richard Mhihza of the Army's First Brigade confirmed that the unit's commander, Brigadier General Armstrong Paul Gunda, died Thursday morning when a vehicle in which he was traveling was hit by a train. Lt. Mhihza said that the collision took place near Watershed in Marondera 75 kilometers east of Harare.

News reports had linked Gunda to the alleged coup plot.

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