"Lock Roy Bennett Up" - State
Roy Bennet upon his release from prison earlier this year. He had been abducted from Charles Prince Airport where it was said he was trying to flee the country illegally. His trial has been in limbo until his lawyers forced matters yesterday by applying to have him removed from remand. The State immediately said it was now ready to have him stand trial at the High Court. A ruling on the matter is expected today.
Harare, Zimbabwe, 14 October 2009
The State yesterday gave notice to a Magistrate in Mutare that, not only has it finalised its case against MDC Deputy Minister of Agriculture-designate Roy Bennett, but also that indicting him, they will seek to have him refused bail and locked up throughout his trial.
Beatrice Mtetwa, who is representing Roy Bennett, wants the court to dismiss the case against Bennett and is arguing that the State only revealed yesterday that it was ready to indict him without giving him notice of this fact.
But Prosecutor Michael Mugabe says, "The State is more than ready to proceed with the trial, but because the accused needs to be indicted first before standing trial, we are doing that today (meaning yesterday!)".
Bennett's legal team is also still in the dark about the State's case against him, since they have not provided any information on their case to the lawyers. But the Attorney-General's office inisists that none of this matters, since they claim they have already given notice by virtue of applying to have him stand trial before the High Court and not the Mutare Magistrates' Court.
The State opposed the application, saying it had notified Bennett of its intention to indict him and that this was enough at law to negate the argument that the delay in starting his trial was grounds for the dismissal of the case.
The State is also arguing that the Magistrate Court in Mutare has no jurisidiction to hear the case. They want the matter to be heard by the High Court of Zimbabwe,, which starts sitting Mutare next week.
As I have previously indicated on this blog, the state is determined that Roy Bennett will not be found innocent and that he should be given a punitive sentence. Mugabe told Arthur Mutambara in March this year that Roy Bennett "will not be acquitted" despite the president's attempts to make it look as though he is above all this and is leaving the matter to be decided by the courts.
Bennett is being charged with possessing arms of war with a view to overthrowing the government of Robert Mugabe and ZANU PF.
The Magistrate is going to make a ruling today on Mtetwa's applications and the State's request for the matter to be referred to the High Court of Zimbabwe.
The way things look now, with Mugabe himself known to be weighing in against Bennett, it will be a shock if the matter is not referred to the High Court as demanded by the State.