ON THE RECORD

The Washington Times Daily - - World - BY JAMES MOR­RI­SON

An old diplo­matic joke says that am­bas­sadors think twice be­fore say­ing noth­ing, but some­times even a bland state­ment gets head­lines.

U.S. Am­bas­sador Charles Ray in the po­lit­i­cal hot­bed of Zim­babwe was try­ing to avoid a di­rect com­ment on a court case in­volv­ing the con­vic­tion of six op­po­nents of au­thor­i­tar­ian Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe.

“Not specif­i­cally com­ment­ing on a par­tic­u­lar case, hav­ing a ju­di­ciary sys­tem which is eq­ui­tably ap­plied to all cit­i­zens is healthy for democ­racy and de­vel­op­ment and vice versa,” he said in a week­end in­ter­view with Ra­dio VOP in the cap­i­tal, Harare.

That sounded like a safe, non­com­mit­tal com­ment.

How­ever, Ra­dio VOP — the ini­tials stand for “Voice of the Peo­ple” — splashed his words on its web­site with the head­line: “U.S. Am­bas­sador Con­demns Se­lec­tive Ap­pli­ca­tion of Law.”

The Zim­bab­wean courts are widely seen as bi­ased to­ward Mr. Mu­gabe, and the con­vic­tions ap­peared to be an­other case of ju­di­cial par­ti­san­ship, Ra­dio VOP re­ported.

The courts last week im­posed fines of $500 and 420 hours of com­mu­nity ser­vice on the de­fen­dants, who in­clude Munyaradzi Gwi­sai, a mem­ber of the Zim­bab­wean leg­is­la­ture from the op­po­si­tion Move­ment for Demo­cratic Change.

Their crime was watch­ing a video of Arab Spring protests.

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