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Zimbabwe's Supreme Court Orders Release on Bail of Ministerial Designate Bennett

The Zimbabwean Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed an appeal by the state against a High Court ruling granting bail to Roy Bennett, a senior official of the Movement for Democratic Change formation led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku set bail of US$5,000, an increase from the US$2,000 set in the High Court decision appealed by prosecutors. Chidyausiku also ordered Bennett to report to the police three times a week and surrender property title deeds to the court.

Bennett, a former Zimbabwean commercial farmer and parliamentarian designated deputy agriculture minister by Mr. Tsvangirai, was arrested on Feb. 13 and is accused of possessing weapons for the purposes of terrorism, banditry and insurgency. The charges were brought in connection with a 2006 case in which a number of MDC officials were accused of plotting to assassinate President Robert Mugabe, but the case for the most part collapsed.

Bennett's arrest and the charges brought against him, which his lawyers and the MDC say are politically motivated, have been cited by Western countries as indicating that true reform in the domain of human rights, as in others, has yet to come about in Harare.

Bennett, held in the remand prison in the eastern city of Mutare for the past month, is due back in court on March 18 for further action in the case.

Lawyer Trust Maanda, representing Bennett, told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri it is unlikely his client would be released Wednesday as the courts in Mutare had closed for the day.

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