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Friday, 6 March, 1998, 12:00 GMT
Zimbabwe supreme court hears Banana application

The Zimbabwean Supreme Court has begun hearing an application from the former president, Canaan Banana, to have his trial on charges of sodomy and sexual abuse permanently stopped.

Mr Banana's lawyers argue that the pre-trial publicity the case received at home and abroad made a fair trial impossible.

Proceedings against him began last September at another court but were immediately adjourned.

The present application amounts to a constitutional test case, and it is being heard by all five members of the Supreme Court, including the Chief Justice.

In addition to eleven charges of homosexual relations -- a criminal offence in Zimbabwe -- Mr Banana faces a civil suit brought by a former aide; he alleges that he became mentally deranged as a result of being forced by Mr Banana into a homosexual relationship lasting three years.

From the newsroom of the BBC World Service

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