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Zimbabwe MDC man returned to jail

Roy Bennett

Roy Bennett

A ministerial nominee in Zimbabwe’s unity government has been ordered back to prison until his trial on terrorism charges starts, a court official said. Roy Bennett, MDC member and senior aide to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, is due to stand trial on 19 October.

He was arrested in February on the day ministers in the coalition government were sworn in, but released in March. A BBC correspondent says the case is one of many unresolved obstacles threatening a power-sharing deal.

Mr Bennett, a former farmer, was due to become a deputy agricultural minister in Zimbabwe’s unity government in February, but has been in and out of jail ever since. The MDC says the charges against him are trumped up, and that this new move is simply a delaying tactic – further proof that Zimbabwe’s judicial system remains firmly under the control of President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party.

Correspondents say Mr Bennett looked pensive throughout the proceedings on Wednesday.  He faces charges of terrorism, insurgency, sabotage and banditry. If convicted he faces a life jail term.

Under Zimbabwean law, a person indicted for trial is automatically taken into custody and can apply for bail, which his lawyers have done. Britain’s Foreign Office said it was “very seriously concerned about politically-motivated abuses in Zimbabwe”.

A spokesman added: “The treatment of Roy Bennett… contravenes the spirit as well as the letter of the [power-sharing] Global Political Agreement.” The BBC’s southern Africa correspondent Andrew Harding says it is the latest twist in a long and revealing legal power-struggle.

Tensions within the unity government are now likely to rise, our correspondent adds. MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa called it a serious and unbelievable development which would trigger a “vicious response”.

Mr Bennett, a white farmer whose land was seized under Mr Mugabe’s land reform programme, became an MP in 2000. He was jailed in 2004 after pushing a minister in parliament during a heated debate about land reform. After being accused of links to an alleged plot to kill Zimbabwe’s veteran president in 2006, he fled to South Africa, saying he feared for his life.

Source: GBC NEWS

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