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Political Tensions Rise in Zimbabwe as Attorney General Appeals Bennett Acquittal

President Mugabe has refused since 2009 to administer Bennett's oath of office as deputy agriculture minister, saying he had to be cleared of the charges, but now ZANU-PF hardliners say Bennett can have no role in government

Zimbabwean Attorney General Johannes Tomana has appealed a High Court decision earlier this week acquitting Roy Bennett, a senior official of the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, of charges that he conspired in 2006 to assassinate President Robert Mugabe and overthrow his government.

More bad news was in store for Bennett in the eastern city of Mutare when he attempted to recover his passport only to learn that it had been seized by local prosecutor Michael Mugabe, Mr. Mugabe's nephew.

Lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, head of Bennett’s defense team, told VOA that the travel document had in fact been stolen because Mugabe was not authorized to take it from the office of the local court clerk as he did.

She said that the seizure should be considered contempt of court given the decision issued Monday by a Harare High Court judge saying that Tomana, who personally prosecuted the Bennett case, had not presented sufficient evidence to support charges that Bennett conspired to assassinate Mr. Mugabe and overthrow his government.

Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the Tsvangirai MDC formation said the appeal will further undermine the already troubled national unity government in which Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF shares power with two MDC groupings.

President Mugabe has refused since early 2009 to administer Bennett's oath of office as deputy minister of agriculture, saying that the former white commercial farmer first had to be cleared of the charges.

But ZANU-PF hardliners are now said to have taken the position that Bennett cannot play any role in the government so far as they are concerned, alleging that he had a role in the pre-1980 colonial government.

Attorney General Tomana confirmed to VOA reporter Blessing Zulu that his office has asked to appeal. Chamisa said in an interview that the latest development was disturbing as it shows politics, not law, is at play.