Zimbabwe Bennett's terrorism trial to be postponed

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The Independent Online

Zimbabwe prosecutors agreed today to postpone from Monday the terrorism trial of an ally of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai after his lawyers argued that they had been given little time to prepare their case.

Roy Bennett, a senior white Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) official, has been charged with illegal possession of arms for purposes of committing terrorism and banditry.

He denies the charge that carries a possible death penalty upon conviction.

Bennett was indicted to stand trial on Wednesday and immediately detained in prison. He was released late yesterday after a High Court judge admitted him to bail.

"It was agreed that the trial be postponed as we have not given them (the defence) enough time. We had given them two days instead of the minimum 10 days required by law," Chris Mutangadura told reporters today.

Bennett will appear in court on Monday when his lawyers would ask the trial judge to set a new date. Prosecutors want the trial to start on Oct. 27, but defence lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa said her team would ask for more time.

"We have proposed that the matter be heard on a later date, however the issue is that Bennett wants this case to be finalised," said Mtetwa.

Bennett, a former white commercial farmer, is Tsvangirai's nominee for the post of deputy agriculture minister but President Mugabe has refused to swear him in until he is acquitted.

Tsvangirai said yesterday the MDC would boycott the country's power-sharing government until sticking points had been resolved and a political deal was reached, sparking the biggest crisis since the coalition was formed nine months ago.

He said the MDC would disengage from Mugabe's "dishonest and unreliable" ZANU-PF party in the country's unity cabinet set up in February.