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Tsvangirai Ally's Terrorism Trial Begins in Zimbabwe


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A top aide to Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai went on trial Monday, facing terrorism and weapons-smuggling charges.

Mr. Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change says the case against Roy Bennett is politically motivated - in the prime minister's words, a "malicious prosecution."

The case in Zimbabwe's High Court has been adjourned until Wednesday so the judge can consider submissions made by the state and defense attorneys.

The state says Bennett's defense outline was presented improperly, while the defense says a key prosecution witness should not be allowed to testify.

Bennett, a white former coffee farmer, is one of most popular leaders in Mr. Tsvangirai's MDC party. The party has designated him to be deputy agriculture minister in Zimbabwe's power-sharing government.

He was arrested in February on charges dating back to 2006, when a weapons dealer was arrested and initially charged with plotting to assassinate President Robert Mugabe.

The weapons dealer signed a confession implicating Bennett and others in the alleged plot, but later recanted and told reporters he had been tortured before signing the document.

The arms dealer ultimately was convicted of weapons charges, and no one else had been charged in connection with the alleged plot against Mr. Mugabe until Bennett was detained this year.

Mr. Tsvangirai's MDC says Mr. Mugabe and his supporters are trying to undermine last year's power-sharing deal with a campaign of arrests and assaults against MDC officials.

Zimbabwe's unity government has stopped catastrophic inflation and the freefall of the country's economy. But the parties of Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Tsvangirai have been at nearly constant odds since the government's formation in February.

The MDC on Thursday ended its three-week boycott of the unity government and pledged to give Mr. Mugabe one month to resolve outstanding issues in the fragile coalition. Mr. Tsvangirai said the president has 30 days to fully implement the power-sharing deal that was reached last year.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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