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Zimbabwe High Court Again Orders Bail For MDC Treasurer Roy Bennett

A Zimbabwe High Court judge on Tuesday ordered the release of Roy Bennett, treasurer of the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and deputy agriculture minister-designate, legal sources said.

High Court Judge Tedias Karwi rejected an appeal lodged last week by state prosecutors after another high court judge ruled Bennett should be granted bail.

It was not clear whether Bennett would be released immediately or whether the state would appeal to the Supreme Court to block the release of the former lawmaker.

Human rights defender Beatrice Mtetwa told VOA that Bennett could be released from custody in the eastern city of Mutare by Wednesday once paperwork is completed.

Bennett is accused of possessing weapons with the intent to commit "terrorism, banditry and sabotage," this in connection with a 2006 case in which opposition officials were accused of plotting to assassinate President Robert Mugabe during a visit to Mutare. The MDC said the charges against Bennett were trumped up and politically motivated.

Meanwhile, observers said state security and judicial authorities seemed to be softening their stance on detainees who are widely considered to be political prisoners.

A Harare magistrate’s decision on Monday granting bail to Zimbabwe Peace Project Director Jestina Mukoko, which followed the release in recent days of 10 MDC activists with another three party members granted bail but still working to meet bail conditions.

Another 18 activist have yet to obtain bail. The former opposition party, now in majority in parliament, said the eight other abducted members remained missing.

Observers said the decision to grant bail to the MDC activists, charged or accused of plotting to overthrow President Mugabe's former ZANU-PF government, indicates that Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Tsvangirai have come to some sort of agreement on defusing the issue of the detainees which threatened to drive a wedge through their unity government.

Lawyer Harrison Nkomo, representing Mukoko among others, told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that he was not entirely happy that his clients were granted bail as opposed to simply being released, saying they are not guilty and should not have been arrested in the first place.

Responding to a request for an interview with Mukoko, under treatment in the Avenues Clinic, Harare, a family member said her doctors have advised against such activity.

Mukoko was kidnapped December 3 and remained missing for a month until police produced her and proceeded to bring the coup conspiracy charges against her.

Her Zimbabwe Peace Project compiles extensive documentation of human rights abuses. It was a major source of information on political violence mainly directed at MDC members in the aftermath of the March 2008 presidential, general and local elections.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...