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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 August 2006, 16:48 GMT 17:48 UK
Zimbabwe justice minister tried
Patrick Chinamasa
Chinamasa is accused of trying to put pressure on a witness
Zimbabwe Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa has gone on trial for allegedly trying to pervert the course of justice. He denies the charge.

Mr Chinamasa is charged with pressuring a man to drop accusations of political violence he made against Intelligence Minister Didymus Mutasa.

The trial was adjourned a week ago, when magistrates refused to try the case, complaining of intimidation.

Correspondents say the case is a test of judicial independence in Zimbabwe.

Several judges have resigned in recent years, complaining of political interference.

As the trial began in Rusape, 150km east of Harare, on Tuesday, state witness James Kaunye testified that Mr Chinamasa had tried to get him to withdraw the allegations against Mr Mutasa.

The minister's supporters were allegedly involved in clashes with those who backed Mr Kaunye, a liberation war veteran, ahead of the 2005 parliamentary elections.

Some 23 of Mr Mutasa's supporters are facing similar charges in a high-profile trial.

Mr Kaunye stood against Mr Mutasa in the primaries for the ruling Zanu-PF party.

Correspondents say this is the second time in eight months that magistrates have expressed concern over government interference in the judiciary.

Supporters of President Robert Mugabe have been accused of widespread acts of violence against their opponents in recent years.

Zanu-PF is divided between different factions, led by rival candidates to succeed Mr Mugabe.


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