High Court Judge Justice Charles Hungwe ordered the release of Bennett, who is detained at a prison in Mutare. State prosecutors immediately appealed the ruling, but the Judge dismissed the bid to detain Bennett in custody for the start of his terrorism trial on Monday in the eastern border city.
The trial for the 52 year-old Bennett had been due to start in a provincial magistrates court on Tuesday but officials from the Attorney-Generals office successfully applied for it to be moved to the High Court, a move that saw his bail automatically revoked after seven months.
Bennett had complied with all bail conditions prior to his appearance in court on Tuesday and his defence team insisted he does not present a flight risk. Justice Hungwe agreed and told the court that in his view Bennett stood to lose more by absconding trial.
The popular Bennett, whose incarceration on Wednesday sparked a major uproar in MDC circles, is charged with illegally possessing arms to commit acts of terrorism, which carries a maximum penalty of the death sentence. The deputy minister designate denies all the charges.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights have meanwhile blasted the Attorney-General Johannes Tomana for relentlessly persecuting Bennett. The ZLHR said whilst it is the case that, upon indictment, bail granted to an accused person can be revoked in terms of the law, Tomana, had the discretion to allow Bennett to remain free, pending his trial under the existing bail conditions.
We believe that, by choosing to oppose the continuing bail of Roy Bennett and ensuring his swift re-incarceration, Tomana is now himself dangerously threatening the Rule of Law and the stability and continuation of the increasingly fragile Interparty Political Agreement, the ZLHR said in a statement.
Lawyer Julius Mutyambizi told us one of the major weaknesses of the countrys judiciary has been the selective application of the law. He said he had hoped that with the advent of the government of national unity, common sense would prevail, so that the good of the nation would override actions that stem from a desire to persecute political opponents.
Roy Bennett is a victim of ZANU PFs retribution because in 1999 he decided to abandon the party he had flirted with for a very long time and joined the Movement for Democratic Change, Mutyambizi said.Post published in: News