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Zimbabwe Court to Decide Fate of Opposition Minister-Designate Wednesday


A Zimbabwe court is expected to rule Wednesday on the charges against an opposition Movement for Democratic Change minister-designate in the new unity government. Roy Bennett is charged with illegal possession of arms for purposes of committing banditry, insurgency and terrorism, and violating the Immigration Act. Wednesday's court ruling would focus on whether there is basis in the charges, and it comes after Bennett's defense described the charges as a political witch-hunt and asked for the charges to be thrown out. Some political analysts say the charges against Bennett are a ploy by agents of President Robert Mugabe to frustrate the opposition out of the new unity government. Trust Maanda is the attorney for Roy Bennett. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that the charges against his client have no legal foundation.

"Today the court is going to make a ruling on our application. The application we made before the court was that Mr. Roy Bennett did not have any case to answer because there was no reasonable basis to objectively come to a conclusion that there was an offense. So, we are arguing that the case must be thrown out without him being placed on remand as we have it. So, the court today will make a ruling whether he has a case to answer or no case at all and if the court says there is no case to answer then it will dismiss the charges," Maanda pointed out.

He said the charges against his client undermine the new unity government.

"I may have a wrong opinion, but as a Zimbabwean, I think what is happening now does not bode well for the government of national unity because it does not introduce the trust that should exist. And I think it is not good for government of national unity," he said.

Maanda said there are speculations that the charges against his client are meant to thwart the full implementation of the power-sharing deal recently signed between the ZANU-PF party and the opposition.

"Some people in some quarter's say this is meant to scuttle the (power sharing) deal because they think that will pull out to say we are not going to proceed with this deal because to begin with there is no good faith from the other side," Maanda noted.

He differed from supporters of the ruling ZANU-PF that Bennett should face the full rigors of the law because what they described as breaking the law of the land.

"It would be only ZANU-PF supporters who say that, but if you look legally in terms of the law there is no basis to come to a conclusion that there is a case for Roy Bennett to answer because the view has always been that these are political charges. And these are political persecution and therefore there is no basis in law," he said.

Maanda said Bennett's defense team would call a former Zimbabwean police officer to testify.

"We are calling for Hischmann (Peter Michael) to come and testify because the weapons that are in the present case with Mr. Roy Bennett are weapons that are at issue are the same weapons found in the possession of Mr. Michael Hischmann in 2006. And he (Hischmann) was convicted but not necessarily for the offense of possession of weapons to say for purposes of insurgency, banditry or terrorism. He was convicted for merely not having license, but he was never convicted for possession for purposes of banditry. So, he was found of a technical offense of mere possession, but without an intention to commit sabotage. So, we want Mr. Hischmann to say yes I posses these and I already gave my explanation on board and the court acquitted me on the charge of banditry etc," Maanda said.

He said his client feels the charges against him are pure political persecution.

"Roy Bennett reaction is that he is not surprised at all about these charges because he says this is an ongoing persecution that has been taking place since about a decade ago. And he knew that he is just a target of the state and he would braced for it and so he is not surprised at all," he said.

Roy Bennett is the MDC's treasurer and the pick of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was sworn in as the prime minister to become deputy agriculture minister in the new coalition government.


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