Zimbabwe court acquits MDC's Bennett in plot to overthrow Mugabe

Bennett was arrested in February 2009, shortly before he was to be sworn in, over terror charges stemming from accusations that he had funded a plot to topple Mugabe four years ago.

Zimbabwe court acquits MDC's Bennett in plot to overthrow Mugabe

Zimbabwe's High Court on Monday acquitted Roy Bennett, a top aide to Zimbabwe's prime minister, in an alleged plot to overthrow President Robert Mugabe, in a case that has strained the unity government.

Bennett was arrested in February 2009, shortly before he was to be sworn in, over terror charges stemming from accusations that he had funded a plot to topple Mugabe four years ago.

The state's case -- that Bennett planned to fund a 2006 plot to blow up a major communications link and assassinate key government officials -- hinged on emails prosecutors said linked the former commercial farmer to the crime.

However, the prosecution was dealt a blow when its chief witness, 49-year-old former policeman and arms dealer Peter Hitschmann, disowned the emails and denied Bennett was involved.

The charges against Bennett, treasurer-general of Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), had been a major source of conflict with President Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's long-serving ruler.

"The state has failed to prove its case," the judge told the court as he dismissed the charges. "The accused is accordingly found not guilty."

Bennett could have faced the death penalty if found guilty.

Bennett welcomed his acquittal as evidence of independence within the judicial system of the southern African country.

"I am very happy. This judgement gives hope that we are returning to justice and the rule of law," he told reporters after the ruling.

Mugabe has refused to swear in Bennett until he is acquitted. The dispute is one of the issues being discussed by negotiators from Mugabe's ZANU-PF and MDC in talks mediated by South African President Jacob Zuma.

Agencies

Last Mod: 10 Mayıs 2010, 13:39
Add Comment