Family fears for Hitschmann’s health in custody

HARARE - The family of a man accused of masterminding a plot to topple President Robert Mugabe in the eastern city of Mutare have spoken of their anger and anguish over a court ruling to keep him in jail until March.
A family spokesperson said the family felt grief and bitterness over the continu

ed detention of Peter Hitschmann, who appeared in court last week looking famished, and intermittently breaking into uncontrollable coughing spasms.
“We find it difficult to understand why a judge who has been selected for his wisdom and expertise would refuse to grant bail on medical grounds when it is blatantly obvious that his health is failing and any further detention could result in his death,” he told The Zimbabwean.
Judge Alfas Chitakunye opposed bail on the grounds that the charges Hitschmann was facing were grave and that he was likely to abscond if he was granted bail.
Hitschmann’s lawyer Trust Mhanda said he had filed an appeal in the Supreme Court for bail because he could not wait for March 2007 for the trial to re-open the next time the High Court will be on circuit in Mutare.
Police nabbed Hitschmann in March, leading to the arrest of opposition lawmaker Giles Mutseyekwa and six others who were charged but later released on bail.
The eight men including four police officers were charged under Zimbabwe’s tough security laws of possession of weapons to carry out an insurgency, sabotage or terrorism.
The prosecution claimed Hitschmann was working for a shadowy organisation called the Zimbabwe Freedom Movement (ZFM) based in Britain, which it said was seeking to overthrow Mugabe’s government.
Government’s star witness, a military intelligence official, Israel Phiri, told the High Court that Hitschmann was part of a goon squad working for ZFM. He claimed he had gone undercover for three months investigating the case. – Own correspondent

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