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Witness in Zimbabwean Politician Case Denies Ownership of Some Weapons

  • Ish Mafundikwa

A state witness in the trial of Zimbabwean politician Roy Bennett told the High Court in Harare that some of the weapons that were purportedly found in his possession were not his.

A state witness in the trial of Zimbabwean politician Roy Bennett told the High Court in Harare that some of the weapons that were purportedly found in his possession were not his.

Weapons dealer Michael Peter Hitschmann took the stand on the resumption of the trial of Zimbabwe's deputy Agriculture Minister-designate Roy Bennett, who is facing charges of illegal possession of weapons for purposes of terrorism, banditry and insurgency. Hitschmann, the prosecution's star witness, has submitted an affidavit saying he did not want to testify against Bennett.

The prosecution alleges Hitschmann was paid by Bennett to buy weapons to assassinate government officials.

Hitschmann denied having written e-mails that were produced in court linking him to Bennett. Attorney General Johannes Tomana for the prosecution also made reference to statements Hitschmann made during his own trial for possessing weapons. A policeman who gave evidence earlier admitted the statements were made under duress.

Defense counsel Beatrice Mtetwa argued the statements had no bearing in the case against Bennett. Attorney General Tomana said Hitschmann might be impeached for giving evidence that contradicts his statements. Trust Maanda, a member of the defense team, explains.

"The state was about to tell the court that he is departing from his initial statements therefore they wanted to as Mr. Tomana said impeach him, that is to have his evidence discredited," Maanda said.

The judge is expected to make a ruling on whether the statements are admissible when the trial resumes Wednesday.

Bennett's party says the charges are politically motivated. President Robert Mugabe has refused to swear him into office until he is cleared of the charges.

Hitschmann was acquitted of terrorism charges in 2006 but was convicted of possessing dangerous weapons for which he served time.

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