Ex-Zimbabwe president on trial for sodomy
September 22, 1997
Web posted at: 12:38 p.m. EDT (1638 GMT)
HARARE, Zimbabwe (CNN) -- Former Zimbabwean President Canaan Banana went on trial on Monday on charges of sodomy. His lawyers immediately applied for proceedings to be called off, saying pre-trial publicity had prejudiced Banana's chance of a fair trial.
"There can be no remedy, no relief other than a stay of prosecution," Banana's chief defense lawyer Chris Andersen told the high court.
But Chief Prosecutor Augustine Chikumira argued that the trial should proceed, and that Banana had generally received "fair, reasonable and responsible media coverage" devoid of the sensationalism which could affect his constitutional right to a fair trial.
Banana served as a largely ceremonial president for seven years up to 1987. The charges, including sodomy, attempted sodomy and indecent assault, mostly involve former bodyguards and domestic workers.
Allegations of homosexual rape were first made public earlier this year by a former aide who said he had been driven to drink and drugs by Banana's sexual abuse.
The aide -- former police inspector Jefta Dube -- told a court in February that he had been raped and forced to submit to anal and oral sex against his will through threats and blackmail.
Dube is serving a 10-year jail term for the 1995 murder of a fellow policeman who goaded him by allegedly calling him "Banana's wife."
The prosecution expects to call up to 37 witnesses in sodomy case, which is expected to last about three weeks.
Homosexuality and sodomy are illegal in Zimbabwe and punishment includes fines or jail terms of up to 10 years.
Banana, a 62-year-old clergyman and international peace negotiator, faced a barrage of photographers and a handful of hostile demonstrators at Harare's colonial-style high court.
Dressed in a charcoal-grey collarless suit and carrying an ebony walking stick, the trim, white-haired former president stepped from a Mercedes-Benz and posed for photographers in the courtyard.
The former president, who is married and has four children, has publicly denied the charges against him and says he is not homosexual. Banana was accompanied to court on Monday by his wife, Janet and other family members.
Reuters contributed to this report.