Friday, February 20, 2009

High Court to decide Bennet's bail application next Tuesday

HARARE – THE High Court will determine next Tuesday whether or not jailed top MDC official, Roy Bennet should be freed on bail, his lawyers said on Friday.
Bennet is in remand prison after a magistrate in the eastern border city of Mutare ruled he should remanded in custody on the grounds there were enough evidence to show the deputy agriculture minister designate had a case to answer.
He was remanded to March 4.
Bennet is facing charges of attempting to sabotage, banditry, terrorism or insurgency.
His lawyer, Trust Maanda, said they have already filed the bail application at the High Court and he matter will be decided on Tuesday.
“The papers have been signed and the application will decide on Tuesday morning,” Maanda said.
Bennet was due to be sworn in by President Mugabe as the country’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture in an inclusive government formed by Zanu PF and the two MDC political parties led by Prime Minister Moran Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara.
He was not sworn in as he is languishing at a remand prison in Mutare.
The continued detention of Bennet has infuriated MDC supporters here who threatened to run riot but were calmed by the MDC provincial leadership.
Patrick Chitaka, the MDC provincial chairman, told angry supporters who kept vigil outside the magistrate’s courts on Wednesday that they should be calm and allow the courts to decide on the matter.

Bennet refuses blanket amnesty

MUTARE – Roy Bennet, the incarcerated top MDC official, declined to be part of a deal in which he was to secure his freedom in return to a blanket clemency for anybody who committed human rights abuses from 2000.
Instead, Bennet said he would rather face trial than to be part of a deal that would see individuals who committed crimes against humanity walk scot-free.
Sources within the MDC and the police said Bennet declared he would want to see individuals that perpetrated crimes against humanity made to account for their actions.
Supporters of President Mugabe’s Zanu PF and security details stand accused of perpetrating human rights abuses since the 2000 bloody elections.
Hundreds have been killed and maimed while thousands were displaced as a result of the violence that has characterized elections in Zimbabwe since 2000.
But under a deal being worked out by the leadership of all the three political parties that are governing the country all those accused of human rights crimes and those in prison for “recruiting” people for “military training to forcefully remove” President Mugabe from office, will receive a blanket amnesty.
But Bennet has distanced himself from such an arrangement saying he would not want to be part to such a deal.
Sources said Elton Mangoma, a senior MDC official and a Cabinet Minister phoned Bennet while he was in police custody to assure him his freedom was imminent under the envisaged deal.
The sources said Mangoma phoned Bennet and told him he had spoken to Patrick Chinamasa, the justice minister, who had assured him the former white farmer would be freed under the amnesty deal.
“But Bennet told Mangoma he was against the deal and said he would rather face trial than to have people who killed and maimed Zimbabweans go scot-free,” said one source. “The police put him on speaker phone so they could hear the conversation.”
Bennet’s lawyer, Trust Maanda confirmed saying: “Bennet does not want to benefit from the sympathy of anybody by way of amnesty. He wants to be freed by the courts after a trial because he knows he did not commit the offence.”
Bennet is facing charges of attempting to commit acts of insurgency, banditry, terrorism or sabotage. He was remanded to 4 March 2009 after a magistrate rejected an application to remove him from remand.
“He (Bennet) wants to clear his name,” Maanda added, “He is saying he heard from other quarters that individuals who committed heinous crimes want to use him to get amnesty. If he gets amnesty they will also get a blanket amnesty for their heinous crimes.”
Under the envisaged deal Zanu PF militants, army and intelligence officers who committed crimes against humanity will not be arrested and prosecuted. These also includes individuals such as Joseph Mwale, the feared Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) detail, who masterminded the gruesome murder of two MDC supporters at Murambinda Growth point in Buhera during the run up to the 2000 elections. Talent Mabika and Tichaona Chiminya were burnt to death after they were petrol bombed while campaigning for the MDC.
Mwale has evaded justice since then.
Hundreds other MDC supporters were to be murdered in subsequent elections held in 2002, 2005 and during the June 27 2008 presidential re-run.
Several thousands were maimed and displaced either after receiving threats or after their houses were set ablaze.
More were killed, maimed and left homeless after the government launched a bloody land “reform” programme in which Zanu PF supporters and sympathizers seized farmland from white farmers.
On the other hand MDC activists and sympathisers who are accused of “recruiting people for military training” outside Zimbabwe will also benefit from the deal.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Magistrate rules Bennet has case to answer

MUTARE – A provincial magistrate here has ruled there are enough reasonable grounds to suspect Roy Bennet, the incarcerated top MDC official, has a case to answer.
Livingstone Chipadze ruled that Bennet should not be removed from remand on charges of contravening Section 10 of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) or the alterative charge of possessing firearms without ministerial authority.
He is alleged to have stockpiled weapons for the purposes of insurgency, banditry, sabotage or terrorism.
The magistrate ruled there are reasonable grounds to suspect Bennet worked in common cause with Peter Michael Hitschmann, the police constabulary already serving a four year jail term for a similar offence.
Bennet was remanded in custody to Mach 4 this year. There was a deafening silence in court after the ruling. Bennet, clad in prison torn prison garb, remained clam throughout the process. He, however, looked distressed and tired. He shook his head after the magistrate delivered the ruling.
His lawyers will now have to apply to the High Court to get bail.
But Bennet was cleared on lesser charges of contravening immigration laws when he allegedly attempted to leave the country for South Africa on February 13 without presenting him selves to an immigration officer.
Tension is building up in this eastern border city. Armed police are patrolling the streets supported by two water cannons.

Bennet to know his fate tomorrow

MUTARE – Incarcerated top MDC official and Deputy Minister of Agriculture Designate, Roy Bennet will know his fate tomorrow afternoon.
Provincial magistrate, Livingstone Chipadze, will make a ruling on whether Bennet has a case to answer or not.
Chipadze told a packed court that he will deliver his ruling at 2:15 PM tomorrow. He however, ruled that Bennet should be sent to remand prison and not police holding cells as had been requested by his defence team.
Bennet was calm throughout the proceedings. He was clad in a white t-shirt and white three-quarter (cargo pants) shorts.
Proceedings at the court were brought to a temporary halt after the arrival of Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe.
The Deputy Minister attended the afternoon session and left to address MDC top provincial leadership in Manicaland Province.
Meanwhile hundreds of MDC supporters kept vigil outside the court yard throughout the day.
Bennet’s lawyers argued heir client had no case to answer and dismissed evidence brought by the State.
Trust Maanda, who is leading the defence counsel, argued that an email message the State was alleging was evidence of communication between Bennet and Peter Michael Hitschmann, the jailed former police constabulary, was concocted and discredited.
“The email from Bennet was concocted,” Maanda told the court. “Anybody can play with the computer and open an email address.”
Maanda said Hitschmann should be called to give evidence in court since the State was linking him to Bennet. The State opposed. Magistrate Chipadze then ruled that Hitschmann’s evidence as not required at the moment but perhaps at a later stage should it still be necessary.
Hitschmann was convicted And sentenced to four years on charges of possessing dangerous weapons but was cleared of more severe charges of attempting to commit acts of banditry, sabotage, terrorism or insurgency.
The defence denied Bennet committed any offence. The State led by Tawanda Zvakare insisted Bennet had a case to answer saying they had evidence he funded the purchase of the weapons found in Hitschmann’s possession in 2006.
They said the evidence was contained in the email message they found in Hitschmann’s possession.
On the other charge of violating immigration laws, Bennet’s defence produced proof that he indeed presented himself to an immigration official.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Lawyers in frantic bid to secure Bennet's release

Lawyers representing incarcerated top MDC official Roy Bennet wants the High Court to order the police to immediately present him to court.
Chris Ndlovu one of Bennett’s lawyers said they will tomorrow petition the High Court to force the police to release Bennet to court.
This was after the police ad successfully sought a warrant to further detain the deputy minister of Agriculture designate for a further 48hours.
The warrant was signed by regional magistrate Billiard Musakwa.
Meanwhile tension is rising among MDC supporters gathered outside the court.
On Friday hundreds of MDC supporters besieged the police station and attempted to force their way into the police station.
They were dispersed after police fired rubber bullets at the crowd.
But angry MDC supporters went on a rampage smashing shop windows in the city centre's central business area.
About 10 MDC activists were arrested and are still languishing in police holding cells at Mutare Central Police Station.
Bennet was expected to appear in court today (Monday) but police did not present him to the court. The docket has been taken to police Headquarters in Harare. The investigating officer a Superintendent Makone was summoned to Police Headquarters to update his superiors on the case.
Bennet is facing charges of committing acts of sabotage and terrorism.