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Zimbabwe President Mugabe won’t testify in Chicago case

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe won’t be deposed in the defense of a Chicagoan accused of illegally lobbying on his behalf, a federal judge has ruled.

C. Gregory Turner, 72, wanted U.S. District Judge Elaine Bucklo to order Mugabe to give evidence while he’s in New York this week for a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.

But Bucklo ruled Wednesday that Mugabe has diplomatic immunity and can’t be compelled to testify. And though Turner’s lawyers say that behind-the-scenes talks suggest Mugabe is willing to help Turner out, they haven’t provided enough evidence of that, the judge wrote in a six-page ruling.

“Turner has not made a concrete and particularized showing that Mugabe is willing to sit for a deposition in this case, ” Bucklo wrote, adding that Mugabe is only “hypothetically available.”

Turner — who’s due to stand trial next week — is accused of illegally lobbying politicians, including U.S. Reps Danny Davis and Bobby Rush, in a failed bid to lift sanctions against Mugabe and members of his ruling elite.

Charges filed last year alleged that Turner illegally negotiated a $3.4 million deal to lobby for Mugabe. His lawyers argued earlier this month that he won’t have a fair trial unless Mugabe is deposed to refute that claim.

Turner’s co-defendant, Prince Asiel Ben Israel, 73, previously plead guilty and was last month sentenced to seven months in prison.

Prosecutors have indicated they intend to call former U.S. Sen. Roland Burris and State Sen. Donne Trotter as witnesses against Turner. Turner’s lawyers allege Trotter took $2,000 in cash from Ben Israel as part of an FBI sting, then failed to declare it, but the government disputes that.

Email: kjanssen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @kimjnews