Tags: Zimbabwe | judge | conviction | overthrow

Zimbabwe PM Aide Cleared in Mugabe Plot

Monday, 10 May 2010 10:47 AM

HARARE – A judge on Monday acquitted Roy Bennett, a top aide to Zimbabwe's prime minister, in an alleged plot to overthrow President Robert Mugabe, ending a trial that had threatened the fragile unity government.

"Having carefully considered the facts, I come to the conclusion that the state has failed to prove a prima facie case. The accused is accordingly found not guilty," said Judge Chinembiri Bhunu.

Prosecutor Chris Mutangadura told AFP that the state would not appeal.

"The court has made its ruling, we are not going to appeal," said Mutangadura.

Bennett, a 53-year-old former white farmer, was Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's pick for deputy agriculture minister in the year-old unity government.

Bennett was arrested in February 2009, shortly before he was to be sworn in, over terror charges stemming from accusations that he had funded a plot to topple Mugabe four years ago.

Bennett welcomed the decision, as his supporters who packed the gallery applauded and hugged him.

"This is welcome. One hopes we will now move into an era of justice and rule of law," Bennett told AFP outside the court.

"Today I am going to have a proper sleep," he added in the local Shona language.

His acquittal could pave the way for Bennett to finally take office. Mugabe has said he must be cleared by the court before taking up the post.

The plot had already been discredited by a court in an earlier case, making Bennett's trial a major source of conflict in the power-sharing deal between Mugabe and Tsvangirai.

In October 2009, Tsvangirai boycotted the unity government, labelling Mugabe's camp as "dishonest and unreliable", partly over the Bennett case.

"We are delighted that we have been vindicated," said Nelson Chamisa, spokesman for Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change.

"Now that the judge has said he has no case to ask Bennett, we feel the logical thing is to prepare his office," he told AFP.

"Our commitment to non-violent, democratic struggle has been authenticated by the court," he added.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

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HARARE – A judge on Monday acquitted Roy Bennett, a top aide to Zimbabwe's prime minister, in an alleged plot to overthrow President Robert Mugabe, ending a trial that had threatened the fragile unity government.
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2010-47-10
Monday, 10 May 2010 10:47 AM
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