Supreme Court reserves judgement on Bennett's bail

roy_bennett_2.jpgSupreme Court Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku has deferred his ruling on Roy Bennett's bail request. Last Thursday the court had granted prosecutors the right to appeal the two High Court rulings granting the MDC official bail.


The MDC Treasurer General and Deputy Minister of Agriculture designate,
was arrested on February 13th and is facing terrorism and sabotage
charges.

One of his lawyers, Trust Maanda, said a ruling could be expected any time, as Justice Chidyausiku had not given a time frame.

In their arguments the State argued that the High Court had erred in
granting the MDC official bail, saying he is a flight risk. Prosecutor
Christopher Mutangadura said if the Supreme Court did agree with the
High Court ruling, it must at least tighten the bail conditions so that
Bennett does not abscond. The stringent bail conditions proposed by the
State include reporting everyday to the police, as opposed to just two
days a week.

Maanda said the defence team challenged the issue of tightening bail
conditions arguing that the State was bringing in new issues which were
never raised in the High Court hearings. They said Bennett was not a
flight risk, especially as he came back to Zimbabwe well aware of
allegations against him. Bennett had fled to South Africa after several
MDC officials and activists were implicated in allegations of a coup
plot in 2006. The charges against the now Home Affairs Minister, Giles
Mutsekwa, and others were later dropped, because of lack of evidence,
but the case against Bennett lingered on. Bennett's lawyers say the
State's case is very weak and the MDC official has no reason to run
away from it.

Meanwhile Magistrate Livingstone Chipadze, who was arrested last Friday
for accepting Bennett's bail payment, was released on bail himself on
Saturday after appearing in the Mutare Magistrates' court. He was
charged with criminal abuse of authority and is expected to appear in
court on March 17th.

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has said the detention of
Magistrate Livingstone Chipadze is completely unlawful. The ICJ
condemned the arrest, arguing the Magistrate acted in accordance with
the rule of law by giving effect to a duly made decision of a higher
court.

Bennett's lawyer Maanda also said: Not only was it unlawful but it was undue interference with the work of a judicial officer.

SWRadio Africa

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