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State, defence row over terrorism remand hearing
Posted: Friday, March 19, 2004

Court Reporter

THE State and defence were still debating yesterday where to hold the remand hearing for 70 suspected terrorists linked to an alleged coup plot in the Equatorial Guinea.

The Attorney General's Office wants a secure and convenient venue and suggestions have been made to have the hearings in a prison complex, which is allowed by Zimbabwean law.

The defence is holding out for a hearing in a public court.

The suspected terrorists, who were arrested last week in Harare on their way to the West African country to oust the government of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, are still in detention at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison.

The director of public prosecutions, Mr Joseph Musakwa, said the suspects would appear in court as soon as the issue of venue was settled.

"We are resolving the issue of venue for their remand hearing. We want a suitable venue in respect of the number of the suspects and security concerns," said Mr Musakwa.

Mr Musakwa could not comment on whether the proceedings in the case might take place at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison, as suggested in some media reports.

The suspects, comprising men from South Africa, Angola, Namibia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and one Zimbabwean, were arrested after their United States-registered Boeing 727 plane landed at Harare International Airport on March 7 before it was impounded by security authorities.

The State has already indicated that the 70 Equatorial Guinea-bound suspected terrorists would be charged for breaching the Immigration, Firearms and Public Order and Security Acts.

Charges under these laws carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail.

Mr Jonathan Samkange of Byron Venturas and Partners, who is representing the suspects, said all his clients had been charged for subversive activities.

He, however, said everything had been finalised except the venue for the remand hearing.

"We are still debating the issue. The State wants the remand hearing to be done in Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison citing security reasons. The defence is totally against the idea," said Mr Samkange.

He said the security fears expressed by the State were unfounded because Zimbabwe had one of the best armies in the world in terms of defence.

"Even the US and Britain cannot do what they are doing to other countries. In Zimbabwe it is very impossible," he said.

Mr Samkange said if his clients were not taken to court by noon today he would seek an order to have them brought to court.

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