UPDATED 17 October: Roy Bennett Granted Bail, But Prison Officers Refusing To Release Him
UPDATE: 17 October 2009
Roy Bennett was finally released last night. He went back to court today to challenge his indictment by the State, which cam about only because he was now applying to be removed from remand.
It is widely accepted at law that undue delay in giving an accused their day in court is an infringement of their rights.
It appears the state is determined to persecute him come what may, as can be seen by their challenges to his application for bail. They wanted to invoke Section 121, which would have given them 7 days to file opposing papers. It would have meant that Bennett would have been locked up for those 7 days while state made up its mind on how to proceed.
All this points to the fact the State has no strong case against Bennett and hence the need for more time, either just to make him suffer or to gather more of what they consider "evidence."
It is a good thing Bennett is represented by one of the best lawyers in Zimbabwe and they are able to anticipate the by now predictable antics of the state.
Harare, Zimbabwe, 16 October 2009
Roy Bennett was granted bail by the High Court of Zimbabwe today in Harare but the prison officials at Mutare Prison are refusing to release him, apparently.
A few minutes ago, I spoke to Beatrice Mtetwa, lead lawyer for Bennett, who confirmed that when Bennett's lawyers arrived at the High Court today, the State invoked Section 121 in order to block the application by Bennett for bail.
Mtetwa and her team say they were prepared for this and immediately opposed the application by the state.
The Judge agreed with Mtetwa and granted Bennett bail.
The order for his release, with a High Court stamp on it, was sent to Mutare Prison this afternoon. But, a few minutes ago Beatrice Mtetwa informed me that the Prison officials at Mutare Prison are refusing to release him, saying that they need to authenticate the High Court Order with prosecutor Michael Mugabe.
"I don't understand why they need to authenticate an Order that has a High Court stamp on it"
"If the law works as it should, Bennett should be freed today, but we will know shortly if the Order has been obeyed by the prison officials."
I suspect that the Prison Officials are just being cautious, knowing the sort of people who are after Bennett.
Earlier this year, a High Court official who implemented an order to release Ghandi Mudzingwa, a senior and close aide to Morgan Tsvangirai and his fellow detainees was arrested for releasing them, even though she was simply implementing a court order. She was thrown into jail with the baby that she was breastfeeding.
The lawyer representing Mudzingwa was also arrested and is actually on trial this week for "inciting" the court official to obey the dictates of the law.
So the prison officials probably do not want to lose their jobs over this.
Later on tonight, we should know for certain whether Bennett has been released or whether ZANU PF has stepped in to defeat the course of justice.
I will update you as soon as I know for sure.