Bennett's Trial Delayed As Prosecutors Fail To Arrive

Bennett’s defence lawyers led by Beatrice Mtetwa, immediately applied to have the case thrown out on that basis but the application was thrown out by the presiding magistrate, Lucy Mungwari. The trial is now expected to start later on Tuesday.

Mtetwa argued that if Bennett had failed to appear in court the court would have issued a warrant of arrest therefore it was important for the court to also reprimand the State by dismissing the case.

She argued the AG’s office had not furnished the court with proper reasons for their failure to be at the court on time thereby undermining the court system.  Mtetwa said the court must stamp its authority by sending a clear message to law officers that they should take the court seriously.

However, the magistrate ruled that while she was in agreement with Mtetwa she was giving the State the benefit of doubt saying: “There is no worry in waiting until they come at 2:15 pm.”

Bennett (52), also MDC Treasurer general, and close ally to MDC leader and the country’s Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, was arrested in February this year on charges of possessing weapons for the purposes of insurgency and banditry.

The failure by the prosecution team to arrive in time for the trial has heightened speculation that the State is not ready to proceed with the case due to lack of witnesses.

Mtetwa was assisted by human rights lawyers Trust Maanda and Blessing Nyamaropa.

Maanda had indicated on Monday that they would apply for a refusal of further remand for Bennett as the state had failed to furnish him with indictment papers.

The MDC believes the charges against one of its founding legislators are trumped up. Bennett once served a one year jail term for assaulting justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa in parliament.

Following charges of terrorism, he fled the country to seek asylum in South Africa in 2006 after the police quizzed him over the discovery an arms cache at a house belonging to Mike Peter Hirschman, an arms dealer.

Bennett returned to the country early this year after he had been advised by some MDC officials it was now safe to come back home.

He was on February 13 this year seized by the police and some intelligence officers at the Charles Prince Airport as he was just about to fly back to South Africa to visit his family. He spent a month at Mutare remand prison amid frantic attempts by his lawyers and the MDC to have him released.