The leader of the opposition in Zimbabwe, Morgan Tsvangirai, was acquitted of treason and of plotting to assassinate despot Robert Mugabe this week, after a two year battle.
And who was the star witness in his trial? One Ari Ben-Menashe, an Israeli-Canadian 'political consultant' who by all accounts is a fantasist, conman and a liar. In the past he has falsely claimed to be a Mossad agent and a political advisor to the Israel PM, has stood trial (and been acquitted) in the United States of illegally selling Israeli planes to Iran and has been involved in numerous other shady affairs. In this instance, while he was being paid by Mugabe in his capacity as head of a Montreal-based political consultancy firm, he tricked Tsvangirai into talking about 'eliminating' Mugabe whilst he was secretly being videoed. Tsvangirai says that Ben Menashe suggested it to him first, and that he meant eliminate politically, not physically. In any case, the tape is grainy and barely audible, and has clearly been edited heavily; reports the BBC, "after each question or answer, the film suddenly jumps and the figures switch their seating positions... The Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe has analysed the video tape and says that a version broadcast relentlessly on Zimbabwe television has a video timer on the screen, which also demonstrates 'that the video had been cut and rearranged in a manner that appeared to suit the assassination conspiracy theory'."
Ben Menashe apparently lied so clearly in court, and behaved so erratically that it persuaded the judges he was a completely unreliable witness. For Mugabe, who heads what is one of the most ruthless, thuggish and despicable regimes in the world today to have lost such an obviously political case against his arch-rival can only mean that the charges were beyond laughable (or that the result, for whatever reason, suited him).
Unfortunately, Tsvangirai's troubles aren't over -- he is still facing another set of treason charges for having tried to organize protests last year. I have a feeling, as well, that we haven't heard the last of Ari Ben Menashe.