Bennett Trial Turns Messy As Attorney-General Fights Lawyers
Roy Bennett arrives at court in Harare earlier today, flanked by one of his lawyers, Beatrice Mtetwa. His trial is now turning messy, with applications for dismal and counter-application from both the Defence and the Attorney General, who has taken personal charge of the prosecution of Bennett, who is Tsvangirai's Deputy Minister of Agriculture nominee. Mugabe refuses to swear him in until he is cleared of the charges he currently faces.
Harare, Zimbabwe, 09 November 2009
The trial of Roy Bennett is now turning into a messy affair after the Defence lawyers applied to have the testimony of a key witness barred from being heard in court.
Bennett's trial, which opened in Harare today was "provisionally" postponed by Justice Chinembiri Bhunu to Wednesday, when he expects that he would have made a ruling on the application by the State as well as the Attorney-General's own counter-applications.
It appears that a statement from Peter Hitschman has been recorded by the Attorney-General and that statement implicates Roy Bennett in the case of procuring arms of war.
But Hitschman himself has subsequently said he will not testify in court against Bennett and that the statement that the Attorney General now seeks to submit to the courts was procured under torture.
Because of this, the Defence want the statement which the AG wants to present as evidence against Bennett barred.
The Defence is also applying to quash the indictment of Bennett, which was a rushed affair, announced only after Bennett's lawyers approached the courts to have Bennett removed from remand because of the inordinate delay in trying him.
Tomana, the Attorney-General, is resisting this and has applied to the court to have the Defence outline, which effectively seeks to quash the indictment, struck off the court the records and teh Defence asked to draft a new one.
Tomana, Zimbabwe's Attorney-General, has taken the unusual step of appointing himself as the prosecutor in the case against Bennett, showing just how seriously Mugabe and ZANU PF hardliners are taking this case. Mugabe was reported by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara to have said that Bennett will not be acquitted, even though he, Mugabe, admitted that he does not have the full facts of the case and can therefore not say for certain how the trial would end if it were free and fair.
Bennett's lawyers fear a manipulation of the system if the trial goes ahead, with Hitschman's testimony being presented even though it was allegedly procured through torture and the witness himself unlikely to agree to come to court and be a State witness.
Further, the Defence also now says the Attorney-General should be referred to the Law Society of Zimbabwe in order for him to be investigated for accepting to use a statement said to have been got through torture.
All these applications and counter-applications mean that the trial itself is yet to start.
On Wednesday this week Justice Bhunu will deliver his judgement.
It is important to note that he inserted the word "provisionally" in there. This being a political hot potato, it may well be that the case will again be postponed on Wednesday to another date as political negotiations go on over the fate of the MDC-T Deputy Minister of Agriculture nominee.