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Zimbabwe opposition cabinet nominee trial delayed

[JURIST] Proceedings against Zimbabwe Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party website] party treasurer and deputy agriculture minister-nominee Roy Bennett [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] were delayed Saturday, after his lawyers requested more time to develop their defense. Bennett faces charges [CNN report] under Zimbabwe's Public Order and Security Act [materials] for unlawfully possessing weapons and provoking others "to commit terrorism, banditry and sabotage." The weapons charges involve a possible death sentence. In response to Bennett's charges, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] has said that his MDC party would boycott [AP report] Zimbabwe's new power-sharing coalition government [BBC report], which is made up of members of the MDC and the African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party of President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Tsvangirai denounced the charges as a deliberate plot by Mugabe and tried to make it clear that he and his party were not withdrawing from the government, but that they would not participate in cabinet meetings and other executive functions with Mugabe's party.

Bennett was originally arrested on weapons charges in February, and was later released [JURIST reports] on bail in March. Bennett was then re-arrested [Reuters report] on the same charges earlier this week, only to be released on bail on Friday. Bennett was originally sought for questioning [JURIST report] in relation to similar allegations in 2006, but he had been seeking asylum in South Africa until recently [IOL report]. Treason charges against him were dropped [Times report] in favor of the terrorism and other charges.

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