The party of Zimbabwe's new prime minister is asking for the immediate release of one of its top officials, Roy Bennett, who faces charges of terrorism, insurgency and banditry.

Movement for Democratic Change spokesman Nelson Chamisa tells VOA English to Africa the charges are politically motivated, and that Zimbabwe's new power-sharing government should secure Bennett's release.

About 100 of Bennett's supporters waited outside a courthouse in Mutare, east of Harare, where he was due to appear before a judge Monday.  There was a heavy police presence at the scene.

MDC chief and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has also called for Bennett's release.  Bennett was arrested Friday shortly before the new unity government was sworn in.
The MDC has designated Bennett to be a deputy minister of agriculture in the new government.

He was initially charged with treason, but those charges were dropped Sunday.

MDC spokesman Chamisa, who is also Zimbabwe's new minister for communication, blamed Bennett's arrest on those seeking to undermine the power-sharing deal.

Bennett is a white farmer whose property was expropriated under President Robert Mugabe's land reform program.   He spent two years of self-imposed exile in South Africa after police sought to question him in connection with the discovery of an arms cache.

The power-sharing government between the MDC and President Mugabe's ZANU-PF party is set to begin its duties this week.  It faces problems that include food shortages, 94 percent unemployment, an inflation rate in the hundreds of millions, and a cholera epidemic that has killed more than 3,500 people. 


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