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Zimbabwe's Roy Bennett Acquitted in Terrorism Case

Zimbabwe's Roy Bennett has been acquitted in Harare's High Court on terrorism charges. The acquittal paves the way for Bennett to be sworn in as a deputy minister in the country's unity government.

Bennett, the treasurer in Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change party, was charged with terrorism. The charge flowed out of allegations he was stockpiling weapons for a planned insurgency against the government of President Robert Mugabe between 2002 and 2006.

The case against him fell apart when arms dealer Peter Michael Hitschmann, convicted in 2006 on the weapons charges, testified he had made a confession implicating Bennett under torture. The state also failed to prove genuine emails it said showed links between Bennett and Hitschmann.

Bennett was jubilant about the outcome.

"First let me give thanks to God that evil will never triumph over good, I have always been innocent, as the people of Zimbabwe have always been innocent and under persecution for a number of years, we stand firm that we are fortified and stronger to continue our fight for a better life and a new Zimbabwe and real change for the people of Zimbabwe," said Roy Bennett.

Bennett was arrested on February 13, 2009 - hours before he was due to be sworn in as deputy minister of agriculture in the unity government. However, Mr. Mugabe refused to swear him in because of the case against him. Now, MDC spokesperson Nelson Chamisa says there is no reason to delay the appointment.

"And we are very gratified," said Nelson Chamisa. "We hope that Roy Bennett now will be sworn in to his post because all the stumbling blocks have been cleared. So we are expecting to have tomorrow Honorable Bennett as deputy minister of agriculture because he is an angel - he has no case to answer."

The prosecution was led by Attorney General Johannes Tomana, who appeared to indicate he would not appeal the decision.

"This is a high court decision, this is our definition and understanding of justice," said Johannes Tomana. "It has been done, and it must be binding. That is all."

If Mr. Mugabe does finalize Bennett's appointment as deputy minister, it could lead to an easing of tensions in the strained unity government.