Zimbabwe: Roy Bennett locked up
Posted: Thursday, October 15, 2009
The Herald - Court Reporter
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October 15, 2009
MDC-T treasurer-general Roy Bennett ó charged with possessing arms for the purposes of terrorism and banditry and inciting acts of insurgency ó was yesterday indicted for trial and locked up.
His trial is set to begin on Monday in Mutare.
According to the law, when one is indicted, he/she automatically loses bail and Bennett can only be released after making a fresh bail application.
In which case, Bennett must apply at the High Court.
Mutare provincial magistrate Mrs Lucy Mungwari ruled in favour of the State after chief law officer Mr Michael Mugabe and Manicaland area prosecutor Mr Arnold Chiwara produced a copy of the notice for indictment.
Bennett, who was dressed in a checked shirt and a pair of khaki trousers, was at a loss for words when Mrs Mungwari made the ruling.
Earlier on, Mrs Mungwari had given the State two days to comply with a court order to present the indictment papers.
She said failure to do so would have resulted in the court declining any further remand of the accused.
However, the State had come prepared and furnished the court with the relevant documents.
Bennett was represented by Messers Trust Maanda of Maunga Maanda and Associates and Mr Blessing Nyama-ropa of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.
Mrs Mungwari ruled: "I commit the accused person to prison and if there are any defects in the process, he should raise them with the High Court."
Bennett was immediately whisked away by Zimbabwe Prison Services officers.
Among those present were Bennettís wife, Heather, Minister of State in the Prime Ministerís Office Gorden Moyo, Mutare Mayor Brian James and several MDC-T supporters.
In an interview after the ruling, Mr Nyamaropa said they would work on the appeal papers overnight and were likely to apply for bail pending trial at the High Court today.
However, last night insiders revealed that there were "frantic efforts by senior MDC-T politicians" to get Government officials to act on the matter.
According to the indictment, the State shall call 12 witnesses to testify.
On Tuesday the State had applied for Bennettís indictment for trial in the High Court.
The defence, led by Ms Beatrice Mtetwa, countered saying the State should have given their client notice for indictment as required by the law.
The magistrate at the time ruled: "The accused person was remanded to October 13, 2009, it being agreed between the State and the defence that this would be the trial date.
"The State being the dominus litus (party in control of the litigation), however, decided on this date that they would actually indict the accused person to appear before the High Court on an unknown date.
"The court, however, could not proceed to indict the accused person by virtue of Section 66 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act (Chapter 9:07), which makes it peremptory that a written notice be given to the provincial magistrate or a magistrate presiding over the matter.
"In my opinion, this was unprocedural as the court derives its authority to indict from the notice in question as indicated by the Act.
"Contrary to what the defence stated, the notice is also required to be given to the accused person and the court.
"He, however, still hasnít been indicted because of the partial compliance with the requirements to have him indicted.
"I am prepared to give the State two days to comply with the court order, failure of which will result in the court declining any further remand of the accused person."
Mr Mugabe argued that an accused already on remand could be indicted at any time of his or her appearance.
He said the mere fact of the State indicting Bennett to appear before the High Court was notice in itself.
This is the second time Bennett has been remanded in custody after a Mutare court denied him bail in March, only to be released a month later by the Supreme Court on US$5 000 bail.
Charges against Bennett arose between 2002 and March 2006 when he allegedly provided one Peter Hitschmann with money for the procurement of 26 grenades, two-schermuly signal smoke hand, 12 rifles and other weapons.
After that, the State alleges Bennett incited Hitschmann to use the weapons to knock down a microwave link situated at a kopje along Melfort-Bromley Loop Road.
It is alleged Hitschmann used cellphone disabling devices to block cellphone signals and to detonate anti-riot water cannon trucks used by police.
Bennett was arrested in February this year upon his return from South Africa where he had fled as a fugitive in 2007.
Police, who had received information that Bennett was returning home, arrested him at Charles Prince Airport in Mt Hampden.
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