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Zimbabwe Judge Allows Testimony in Bennett Weapons Case by Controversial Witness

The trial of Zimbabwe Senate member Roy Bennett resumed Wednesday though only briefly as a High Court judge turned down a motion by lawyers seeking to bar testimony by Peter Michael Hitschmann, convicted in 2006 on a related charge, on grounds that Hitschmann's testimony was coerced and conflicts with public statements he has made.

Justice Chinembiri Bhunu ruled that Hitschmann, who alleges he was tortured into confessing to weapons charges in 2006 and implicating others, can be called as a state witness. He said he determine by the end of the trial if Hitschmann’s evidence carries weight, adding that the allegations Hitschmann was tortured can be brought up during the trial.

Bennett, a former commercial farmer who spent the better part of a year in prison in 2004-2005 for shoving Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa in Parliament when he was a member of the lower house, is charged with possessing weapons for the purpose of terrorism.

Bhunu also threw out a state motion to quash part of the opening statement by the defense, clearing the way for the trial to get under way in earnest on Thursday.

Bennett defense lawyer Trust Maanda told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that his team was not happy with today’s ruling. Attorney General Johannes Tomana said he asked for the defense's entire outline to be thrown out, but accepted Bhunu's ruling.

Bennett, designated deputy minister of agriculture by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, was arrested in February even as the country's power-sharing government was formed. President Robert Mugabe has refused to swear him into that post until his case is concluded - which has been a major bone of contention between Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Tsvangirai.

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