In the continuing terrorism trial of Zimbabwean Senator Roy Bennett, treasurer of the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, a key state witness further undermined the state case Tuesday by denying Bennett gave him funds to purchase arms.
Peter Michael Hitschmann, impeached this week by a Harare High Court Judge who excluded statements submitted by the state because they were obtained under duress, said under cross-examination by Attorney General Johannes Tomana that Bennett did not provide him with funds to buy weapons confiscated at Hitschmannn's house in Mutare in 2006.
While Hitschmann confirmed that he maintained a bank account at the Banco International in Maputo, Mozambique, he said Bennett never deposited any funds into that account. He said all of the funds deposited into that account came from his own legitimate business activities in Mozambique.
Hitschmann also denied implicating Bennett in e-mails that the state says were found on a laptop computer seized at his house in the 2006 raid.
Hitschmann said neither he nor his lawyer were present when the e-mails were printed from the laptop. He said he was not familiar with the e-mail accounts cited by security officials, and that he did not have passwords to them.
Hitschmann produced laughter in the courtroom when he remarked that there was nothing wrong with legislators fighting in Parliament, this a clear reference to Bennett’s scuffle in the House with Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa in 2003, which led to his sentencing to a prison term by Parliament.
Hitschmann made the comment after Tomana suggested that he regarded Bennett as a hero and was therefore refusing to implicate him.
Hitschmann said fights in Parliament were often seen in countries including Turkey, Taiwan and South Korea, and Zimbabwe was no exception.
After Tomana completed his cross-examination Judge Chinemberi Bhunu adjourned the trial to Wednesday. Bennett defense lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa is expected to cross-examine Hitschmann again at that time.
VOA Studio 7 correspondent Thomas Chiripasi reported from Harare.
Bennett is charged with terrorism and incitement to commit acts of insurgency but has denied the charges, calling them politically motivated.
Bulawayo attorney Matshobana Ncube told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that Peter Hitschmann's impeachment has increased the chances of Bennett’s acquittal – if politics is not brought to bear in the case.