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Opposition Figure Roy Bennett, Still Defiant, Leaves Prison

Zimbabwean authorities released former opposition member of parliament Roy Bennett from prison on Tuesday after serving eight months of a one-year sentence imposed by the ruling party majority for having shoved Justice Minister Patrick Chinimasa during a heated debate over land reform in May 2004.

Mr. Bennett spoke to the press in Harare after his release, and his lawyer said the former member for Chimanimani intends to pursue legal action against prison authorities for allegedly assaulting him during his time behind bars.

The Law Society of Zimbabwe has charged rampant physical and verbal abuse of prisoners by wardens and fellow inmates. The society, which regulates legal practitioners, issued a report in 2004 describing conditions at prisons in Harare and Bulawayo. It said prisoners are often demeaned and abused by guards.

Mr. Bennett emerged from prison looking gaunt and described his confinement as “hell.” But he said he will keep fighting for people’s rights. Reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe spoke with Mr. Bennett and found him as defiant as ever – though he said he felt humbled by his experience.