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Monday, 6 March, 2000, 14:58 GMT
Banana appeals against sodomy conviction
Canaan Banana and wife Janet
The former president is undergoing cancer treatment
By Joseph Winter in Harare

Zimbabwe's former president, Canaan Banana, is appealing to the Supreme Court against his conviction a year ago for homosexual rape.

He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, although nine were suspended, provided he pays compensation to his victims.

President Robert Mugabe
President Mugabe has described gays as worse than pigs and dogs
His lawyer - a former justice minister - argued that the trial judge had wrongly convicted Mr Banana as there was hardly any evidence to back up the victims' testimonies.

The offences occurred in the early 1980s when he was Zimbabwe's first head of state.

Drugged and sodomised

In the trial, which gripped Zimbabwe in 1998, a string of men who had worked for the then president as bodyguards and domestic servants claimed that he had sexually abused them.

One even said that Canaan Banana had drugged and then sodomised him while he was unconscious.

Mr Banana denied all the charges.

He is currently undergoing treatment for cancer in South Africa and was not in court.

His lawyer said that the massive publicity given to the first victim could have led some of the others to make up similar stories in order to sue Mr Banana for damages.

Controversy

Although Mr Banana denies he is gay and says he is happily married, the court found that one of the relationships was by mutual agreement.

In this case, his lawyer argues that consensual homosexual relations should no longer be considered a crime.

If the Supreme Court agrees on this point, it would spark major controversy in a conservative country like Zimbabwe whose current president, Robert Mugabe, has condemned gays as being unnatural and un-African.

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See also:

24 Jun 98 |  Africa
Banana trial ends
27 Nov 98 |  Africa
Manhunt for Banana in Botswana
16 Dec 98 |  Africa
Banana under house arrest
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