Zimbabwe’s Bennett not involved in terrorism: witness

A Zimbabwe state witness said on Wednesday opposition politician Roy Bennett was not involved in a terrorism plot against President Robert Mugabe’s government.

Bennett — a white commercial farmer and treasurer-general in Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) — faces a possible death penalty if convicted of illegal possession of arms for purposes of committing terrorism, banditry and sabotage.

On Wednesday key state witness Peter Hitschmann, who was this week declared hostile to the state’s case, said Bennett had nothing to do with firearms he kept and did not provide funds to buy the arms for an anti-government plot.

When asked by Bennett’s lawyer whether the MDC politician had deposited funds into his account to buy guns or whether he plotted terrorism, Hitschmann said: “No my Lord, he did not.”

The state charges that Bennett funded a plan in 2006 to blow up a major communication link in the country and assassinate key government figures. He is accused to have deposited funds in Hitschmann’s Mozambican account for the operation.

Bennett has branded the charges political persecution by Mugabe’s ZANU-PF to stop him from taking office as deputy agriculture minister.

Arms dealer Hitschmann, 49, says he was tortured by state security agents to implicate Bennett. On Monday the court threw out confessions made by Hitschmann’s in 2006 because they were not made freely, weakening the state’s case.

Hitschmann, who served jail time for possessing dangerous weapons, said it was not normal that the state had never interviewed him or taken a statement from him before he was called to testify as a witness.

“It’s not only not normal but also dangerous, my Lord. I would have given an indication (to the state) that I would be of little use to the state,” Hitschmann said.

Hitschmann, a former police officer, said as a licenced arms dealer he collected guns from white commercial farmers who were forced off their land for safekeeping or for sale on commission.

Prosecutors have said the trial is likely to end next week.



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