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Zimbabwe government appeals cabinet nominee acquittal

Zimbabwe Attorney General Johannes Tomana on Wednesday appealed the recent Supreme Court [court website] decision to acquit [JURIST report] Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party website] party treasurer and deputy agriculture minister-nominee Roy Bennett [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] of terrorism and insurgency charges. Tomana alleged [AllAfrica report] that Justice Chinembiri Bhunu erred in evaluating the authenticity of electronic evidence against Bennett as a matter of law. Bennett, a close ally of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and opponent of President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] had faced charges under Zimbabwe's Public Order and Security Act [materials] for unlawfully possessing weapons and provoking others "to commit terrorism, banditry and sabotage." Members of Mugabe's political party ZANU-PF are opposed [VOA report] to confirming Bennett's 2009 deputy agriculture minister nomination. A spokesperson for Tsvangirai's MDC party denounced the government's move to appeal as politically motivated.

In January of this year, Zimbabwe's high court rejected [JURIST report] evidence from a key witness in Bennett's trial, ruling that statements the state intended to use to impeach Peter Michael Hitschmann's testimony were not freely made by Hitschmann and were invalid as evidence. Bennett's trial began in November after delays in October to allow his counsel to develop a defense. Bennett was originally arrested on weapons charges in February 2009, and was released [JURIST reports] on bail the following month. He was then re-arrested on the same charges in October, only to be released on bail again. Treason charges against him were dropped in favor of the terrorism and other charges. Bennett was originally sought for questioning [JURIST report] in relation to similar allegations in 2006 but had obtained asylum [IOL report] in South Africa.

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