Bennett's Passport Goes Missing

Bennett, who was acquitted of terror related charges, discovered that his passport had vanished when he traveled to Mutare on Tuesday intending to collect his passport from the Mutare Magistrates Court, where he surrendered it last year.

Bennett deposited his passport together with his title deeds as part of his bail conditions when he was granted bail by the Supreme Court last year. The former Chimanimani legislator also paid US$5 000 in bail money.

But Bennett, who traveled to Mutare on Tuesday, a day after his acquittal could not secure his travel document and his bail money. He was only returned Title Dees for his Mutare house.

Bennett’s lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, told Radio VOP that the MDC treasurer-general was informed that his passport had been signed out of the court by Michael Mugabe, a law officer in the AG’s Office, on 29 March 2010 for unknown reasons.

“The removal of his passport is illegal as only the court or an acquittal can lead to the release of a passport from the clerk of court. These guys (law officers) are a law unto themselves,” said Mtetwa.

Mtetwa said she will file an urgent court application seeking the release of Bennett’s passport.

Bennett, who was facing charges of being illegally in possession of weapons with the intention to commit insurgency, sabotage, terrorism and banditry, which carried a death sentence, was freed by High Court Judge Justice Chinembiri Bhunu. Bhunu ruled that the State’s prosecution team, led by Attorney General (AG) Johannes Tomana, had failed to establish a prima facie case against the former Chimanimani Member of Parliament.

Justice Bhunu ruled that there was no nexus between Bennett and the commission of the offences which he was alleged to have committed. He also ruled as inadmissible emails, which were produced as evidence in court by the State during Bennett’s prosecution. The High Court Judge said the depth of ignorance exhibited by Perekai Mutsetse (the State’s witness who claimed to be an IT expert) during cross examination by defence lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa was “amazing”.

Mtetwa said Bennett’s acquittal once again vindicated claims that his arrest, prolonged arbitrary detention, and protracted trial were tools of persecution rather than prosecution.

Meanwhile Attorney General Johannes Tomana on Wednesday filed a Supreme Court appeal against Bennett’s acquittal.

Chris Mutangadura, a law officer in the Attorney General’s office, said the judge should have taken a “holistic assessment of all evidence
gathered in totality” arguing this would have helped the court establish a prima facie case against the accused.

“The learned trial erred at law when it found the testimony of Mutsetse appalling only because he acknowledged lack of knowledge as
to the existence of computer criminals known as hackers without any tested evidence to the effect that the persons who discovered the
emails on the person of Hitschmann are criminals known as hackers,” said Mutangadura.

“By doing so, the learned judge contradicted his earlier finding of fact that the mere fact that emails can be faked does not mean that
the emails before the court as exhibit 13 are also fake. “The ultimate finding that the emails are not admissible on the basis
that they are capable of being faked was consequently outrageous in its defiance of logic.”

The appeal is contrary to statements by Tomana soon after Bennett’s acquittal on Monday. Tomana said the state was going to respect Bhunu’s judgement.

President Robert Mugabe has adamantly refused to swear in the former coffee farmer saying his strong beliefs against his government’s
chaotic land reform programme made him unsuitable to run an agriculture ministry. Mugabe has further argued Bennett should first clear his name with the courts before he can accept him in government.