Family fears for Hitschman’s life

MUTARE -The trial of licensed gun dealer, Peter Hitschman, arrested in March on spurious charges of plotting a coup against President Mugabe, opens in the High Court today before Justice Alfas Chitakunye who is on circuit in Mutare.
A family spokesman said Hitschman was in a parlous condition

and his health had deteriorated dramatically since his incarceration in a Mutare jail seven months ago.
“He has seriously lost weight and is health has deteriorated,” a spokesman for his lawyers and family told The Zimbabwean this week.
“We are gravely worried because they have refused to let him doctor. His urinary system seems to be failing and his hearing is impaired ever since he was tortured. He has contracted all sorts of diseases in there and has been coughing uncontrollably. We believe it could be TB. He is generally in a terrible state and is in acute pain. They just don’t care even if he dies.”
Levison Chikafu, the Manicaland Area Prosecutor, is expected to argue the case before the judge.
Hitschman, in whose house the state claimed to have discovered an arms cache for use in a murder plot in March, has been on remand ever since and his trial was expected to finally open today.
He was arrested with Roy Bennett, who has since skipped the country to neighbouring South Africa, MDC shadow Defence minister Giles Mutseyekwa and several other MDC officials, who have since been released after charges were dropped.
Lawyers representing the activists before their acquittal told the courts that they had all been badly tortured while in custody. Bennett fled for his life to South Africa, where his asylum application has been turned down following the intervention of the Central Intelligence Organisation.
The State seems to be confused over the exact charges it intends to prefer against Hitschman. Initially the State claimed he had been caught with an “arms cache” and he was alleged to be part of an assassination or coup conspiracy.
When the conspiracy charges could not be sustained in court, the Attorney General’s office quickly switched to a more convenient charge of possession of dangerous weapons.
When it emerged that he was a licensed gun dealer and charges of possession would be non-sustainable, the AG contacted purported ballistics experts to certify on oath that some of the guns were so dangerous that the accused would have needed a special permit to posses them.
Again his bail application was defeated on the fresh charges before a handpicked judge. In the meantime he was subjected to endless interrogation.
The investigating officers and state agents would collect him from remand prison against his will and interrogate him without his lawyers and behind the back of his lawyers.
An attempt to obtain a court injunction against the violation of his constitutional right to legal representation was foiled by the cowardice of the magistrates before whom the case was placed.
In the meantime, faced with a fresh bail application, the AG has brought up new treason charges on the same facts, the same case. The High Court reserved judgement leading to toady’s trial.
Part of the State outline reads: “To achieve this, the group agreed to spill oil on Christmas Pass highway when (President Mugabe’s) motorcade would be approaching, so that the motorcade would slip and get involved in an accident.”
They had also “agreed to throw tear smoke canisters in tents where the 21st February Movement celebrations were going to be held so as to cause panic, disturbance to ordinary people in attendance,” the State alleges. -Own correspondent

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