Judge acquitted


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Retired Judge Fergus Blackie was acquitted of a charge of trying to defeat the course of justice when the state prosecutor Florence Ziyambi withdrew the charge but did not state any reasons.

Blackie was accused of handing down a judgment without consulting a fellow judge who also heard the case.

Blackie’s judgment nullified a previous judgment against Tara White. The local press alleged that Blackie was having an affair with White.

The arrest of Blackie was said to be political because he had sentenced Minister of Justice Patrick Chinamasa to a three-month jail term for contempt of court.

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 03HARARE1330, RETIRED HIGH COURT JUDGE FERGUS BLACKIE ACQUITTED

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

03HARARE1330

2003-07-01 11:11

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001330

 

SIPDIS

 

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER

LONDON FOR C. GURNEY

PARIS FOR C. NEARY

NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER

BANGKOK FOR WIN DAYTON

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2013

TAGS: PGOV PHUM PINR ZI

SUBJECT: RETIRED HIGH COURT JUDGE FERGUS BLACKIE ACQUITTED

 

Classified By: Political Officer Audu Besmer for reasons 1.5 b/d

 

Summary:

——–

 

1. (C) In a ten-minute Magistrate’s court session on June 30,

the state prosecutor Mrs. Ziyambi withdrew the state’s case

against retired Judge Fergus Blackie. Blackie was arrested

on September 13, 2002 and accused of handing down a judgment

without consulting a fellow judge who also heard the case.

This occurred soon after Blackie had sentenced Minister of

Justice Patrick Chinamasa to a three-month jail term for

contempt of court. While Blackie’s acquittal may have been a

small victory for the rule of law in Zimbabwe, and Blackie

himself, we have no reason to doubt that the GOZ will

continue to use the courts to put pressure on its opponents.

End Summary.

 

Acquitted

———

 

2. (C) In a ten-minute Magistrate’s court session on June 30,

the state prosecutor Mrs. Ziyambi withdrew the state’s case

against Justice Fergus Blackie. Mrs. Ziyambi did not state

reasons for her withdrawal, but mentioned that she had gone

through the documents and made recommendations to the

Attorney General (AG) and the Director of Public Prosecutions

that the case should not proceed. Mrs. Ziyambi told the

court that the Attorney General or the Director might proceed

with the case in the future if they saw fit. The prosecutor

had intimated privately to defense attorney Firoz Girach in

discussions leading up to the trial, that she did not have

enough evidence to go forward. Defense attorneys also said

that the State’s star witness, court secretary Cherith

Catherine Keen had made a written statement to police that

she took responsibility for the administrative error that

lead to the charges against Judge Blackie.

 

3. (C) Advocate de Bourbon commended Mrs. Ziyambi for the

principled stand she took, and said he hoped the Attorney

General and Director would follow suit. He stated that the

decision by the state to withdraw its case was well overdue,

and was undoubtedly the correct decision. Defense attorneys

said privately they were confident the Attorney General and

Director would not summon Blackie for trial due to

insufficient evidence.

 

4. (U) Justice Blackie was arrested on September 13, 2002,

just after he retired, on allegations of defeating the course

of justice or alternatively violating the prevention of

Corruption act. Blackie was accused of handing down a

judgment without consulting a fellow judge who also heard the

case. Blackie’s judgment nullified a previous judgment

against Tara White. The official press alleged that Blackie

was having an affair with the defendant Tara White.

 

Retribution ?

————-

 

5. (C) The defense was prepared to argue that Blackie was

arrested soon after sentencing Minister of Justice Patrick

Chinamasa to a three-month jail term for contempt of court.

Chinamasa had publicly criticized a ruling by another High

Court judge, an offense punishable under Zimbabwean law.

Though Blackie was arrested in September 2002, the defense

said court documents indicated the police investigation of

the charges did not start until October 2002. Though the

Attorney General could have simply reversed Blackie’s ruling

in the Tara White case, rather than arresting and humiliating

Blackie, the AG had not done that.

 

6. (U) Tara White was also arrested in September; that case

is technically still pending, however the state has not

pursued a trial date.

 

7. (C) After the proceedings, the prosecutor said privately

she done her time, and had had enough of this system and was

looking to transfer into the private or non-profit sector.

 

8. (U) American Federal Judge Bernice B. Donald was in Harare

representing the American Bar Association to meet with the

prosecution, defense, and law society representatives, and to

report back to the ABA on the rule of law in Zimbabwe.

 

Comment:

——–

9. (C) The fact that the state has withdrawn its case against

Blackie, has not pursued its case against Tara White, and has

not overturned the ruling Blackie made in the White case

serves to confirm that Judge Blackie was arrested for

political reasons – in retribution for the ruling he made

against Chinamasa, and to humiliate him. Other prosecutors

we have spoken to comment on the pressure they are under to

pursue convictions in such cases. Many have left the

profession, or are contemplating career changes. While this

may have been a small victory for the rule of law in

Zimbabwe, and Blackie himself, we have no reason to doubt

that the GOZ will continue to use the courts to put pressure

on its opponents. End Comment.

SULLIVAN

 

(70 VIEWS)

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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