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Tsvangirai aide stands trial
Roy Bennett's trial on charges of terrorism could endanger Zimbabwe's unity government.
Last Modified: 09 Nov 2009 13:00 GMT
Bennett has been on remand since his arrest in February over terrorism charges [EPA]

An aide to Morgan Tsvangirai, the Zimbabwean prime minister, has gone on trial over terrorism charges that have stoked tensions in the country's unity government.

Johannes Tomana, Zimbabwe's attorney-general, described on Monday Roy Bennett's trial as "a very serious matter which must be awarded the amount of seriousness it demands".

Bennet was arrested in February on charges of possessing weapons with an intention to commit sabotage, terrorism, banditry and insurgency.

Tsvangirai says the charges were fabricated in order to keep Bennett, a senior member of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), out of Zimbabwe's unity government.

Bennet is poised to become Zimbabwe's deputy minister of agriculture, but Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's president, refuses to swear him in until he is proven innocent of all charges, some of which that carry a possible death penality.

Al Jazeera's Haru Mutasa, reporting from the Zimbabwean capital of Harare, said the trial would test a new deal brokered by the regional leaders.

Zimbabwe's political rivals held talks last week in Mozambique in an effort to ease tensions within the unity government.

Erstwhile rivals, Mugabe and Tsvangirai came together last year to form the unity government.

But Mugabe says he will not give into any more demands until targeted sanctions on him and his close allies are removed by Western countries.

'Emotional history'

Bennett, who served as a policeman under the Rhodesian Forces during Zimbabwe's liberation war, was one of 4,000 commercial farmers who fought to keep land that he eventually lost during a land redistribution programme initiated by Mugabe in 2000.

In 2004, he was sentenced to 12 months in jail after he was convicted of assaulting a minister from Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party during a parliamentary debate.

He returned to Zimbabwe in early 2009 after spending two years in exile in South Africa.

Chris Mutsvangwa, a Zimbabwean political analyst, told Al Jazeera: "You have to look at the emotional history of this county amongst the many possible candidates which the MDC can have, Bennett tends to exert a lot of controversy.

"These are legitimate controversies on the part of us who fought in the liberation war - that a man who was our adversary at that time now becomes a minister of agriculture in a party which was part of the GNU [Government of National Unity]."

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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