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Zimbabwe Court Puts Senior MDC Official Back in Prison


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A Zimbabwean court on Wednesday detained Roy Bennett a senior Movement for Democratic Change official and said it had indicted him to stand trial on terrorism charges. Roy Bennett returned from exile to Zimbabwe to take part in the unity government in February.

Roy Bennett is treasurer of the MDC and had been nominated to be Zimbabwe's deputy agriculture minister.

When he returned to Zimbabwe he was arrested and officials said he would be charged with various offenses, including terrorism.

He spent a month in detention while lawyers battled through the courts to secure his release on bail. His trial was due to start in the lower court on Tuesday in the eastern city of Mutare.

Defense lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa said seven months after he was arrested, she had been given no specific charges, nor any outline of the case.

She also said a previous court order ruled that Bennett could be tried in the lower court in Mutare. She described the courts disregard of this ruling, and his indictment to the High Court and his detention Wednesday as a "gross abuse of court processes."

State prosecutor Chris Mutangadura, said in court, that Bennett had been indicted and the "natural consequence is he will be in custody until he makes a bail application in the High Court."

After Bennett had been taken out of the court to the Mutare Remand Prison senior MDC leader, Gordon Moyo, a senior minister in Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's office, who attended court in Mutare Wednesday, said he was "devastated" by the court ruling.

Securing bail in cases involving terrorism charges is extremely difficult, a Harare legal academic said Wednesday.

Roy Bennett, a founding member of the MDC, spent nine months in a rural prison four years ago after pushing one of President Robert Mugabe's officials in parliament during a debate about land reform.

Mr. Mugabe has said in several interviews recently that Bennett would not be sworn in as deputy agriculture minister until he had been cleared by the courts.

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