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Zimbabwe Court Delays Bennett Decision

  • Peta Thornycroft

Defense lawyers in Zimbabwe say the country's attorney general is persecuting Movement for Democratic Change Party treasurer Roy Bennett for political reasons.

Defense lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa said after a closed Zimbabwe Supreme Court hearing that her client, Movement for Democratic Change Party treasurer Roy Bennett, felt persecuted by the state. The Zimbabwe attorney general is appealing a high court's dismissal of weapons charges against Roy Bennett.

The Supreme Court hearing adjourned indefinitely Wednesday to study voluminous court records in the appeal.

In May, Harare High Court Judge Chinembiri Bhunu acquitted Bennett on allegations he plotted to overthrow President Robert Mugabe, saying the state had failed to establish its case.

A week later, Attorney General Johannes Tomana, who claims he is a proud member of President Mugabe's ZANU-PF Party, instructed a state prosecutor to appeal the dismissal.

The case against Bennett has strained Zimbabwe's struggling coalition government since it was created a year and a half ago.

When the inclusive government was formed in February last year, MDC Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai appointed Bennett to be deputy agriculture minister.

But when Bennet returned from exile in South Africa to take his position he was arrested. Mr. Mugabe said then, and more recently, that he would not swear Bennett into office until he was cleared of all charges.

The MDC says President Mugabe's failure to swear Bennett into office and the continuing invasions of white-owned farms are outstanding issues of the Global Political Agreement - the foundation stone for formation of the inclusive government.

Several farming groups in Zimbabwe say Bennett will never be allowed into the ministry of agriculture because he would uncover substantial corruption. Bennett was a successful coffee farmer before he was forced off his property in eastern Zimbabwe eight years ago.