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news - Update: Zimbabwe Imprisons and Indicts Opponent

october 15th, 2009

"Roy Bennett, a leader of the political party that long fought Zimbabwe’s president but now shares power with him, was sent back to prison on Wednesday in the eastern city of Mutare and formally indicted on terrorism charges.

Mr. Bennett, who was supposed to serve as a deputy agriculture minister in the eight-month-old coalition government, is scheduled to go to trial on Monday. The Herald, the state-owned daily newspaper, reported Wednesday that the state would oppose bail for Mr. Bennett--who was jailed for almost a month early this year--and was ready to try him on charges of possessing arms for terrorism.

The case against Mr. Bennett, which his party denounces as false, is based in large part on a confession obtained from his accuser through torture, according to two lawyers who have spoken to the accuser. President Robert Mugabe, interviewed in New York on Sept. 24 by CNN, said he would swear in Mr. Bennett as a deputy minister only if he was acquitted.

Mr. Bennett’s prosecution and the arrests of over a dozen Parliament members from his party, the Movement for Democratic Change, by a criminal justice system still firmly controlled by Mr. Mugabe’s party, ZANU-PF, have soured relations between the sides and undermined efforts to restore the rule of law in a nation that Mr. Mugabe, 85, has ruled for almost three decades.

'In Zimbabwe, the law is a sword used against perceived competitors of ZANU-PF,' said Nelson Chamisa, spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change and the communications minister in the coalition government. 'Roy Bennett’s a senator and he’s being treated like a criminal.'"

MORE: "Zimbabwe Imprisons and Indicts Opponent" (NY Times)

PREVIOUSLY: "Zimbabwe Prosecutors Seek to Indict MDC's Bennett"

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