21 June 2007

Zimbabwe: Cops Denied SA Entry

Harare — A TEAM of police officers investigating MDC activists accused of undergoing banditry training in South Africa has been denied entry into that country to carry out investigations, the High Court heard yesterday.

The MDC activists -- who are facing charges of terrorism -- are accused of staging a series of petrol bomb attacks on Government properties and have been battling to obtain bail at the High Court since their arrest in March.

Prosecutor Mr Tawanda Zvekare told Justice Lawrence Kamocha that the police officers who had been to South Africa twice before their efforts hit a brick wall needed more time to finish the investigations.

"Initially the police relied on the strong ties that existed between Zimbabwe and South Africa police to an extent that local police details went to that country without invoking formal procedures that are required when conducting extra-territorial investigations," said Mr Zvekare.

The prosecutor said only recently when the investigation team, in the company of three accomplices, now turned into State witnesses, were refused entry at Beitbridge Border Post.

"When they arrived at Beitbridge they were informed by their counterparts that if ever they set their foot in South Africa they would be arrested immediately under that country's terrorism law," he said.

Mr Zvekare said the investigators were advised to request for mutual assistance through proper diplomatic channels, which he said would take the police at least three months. He said the police efforts to prove their case against the suspected bombers had been sabotaged by the latest development.

"The police had not put in motion the necessary legal manoeuvres which would have enabled them to lawfully carry out investigations in South Africa," he said.

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