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Arrested Zimbabwe activist's hearing delayed

  • Story Highlights
  • Court proceedings against arrested Zimbabwe opposition activist delayed
  • His lawyers said prosecutors could not make it to the court 132 miles from Harare
  • Roy Bennett arrested Friday, the day he was due to be made a government minister
  • Movement for Democratic Change says the conspiracy charges are trumped up
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(CNN) -- Police in Zimbabwe Monday failed to bring to court an opposition activist who was scheduled to become a government minister on Friday but was arrested instead.

Zimbabwe police officers at Mutare Magistrates Court where Roy Bennett's scheduled appearance was postponed.

Zimbabwe police officers at Mutare Magistrates Court where Roy Bennett's scheduled appearance was postponed.

Roy Bennett of the Movement for Democratic Change was supposed to be sworn in as deputy agriculture minister last week under a power-sharing agreement between the MDC and President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party.

Bennett was charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism, sabotage and banditry. Police added another charge, contravening the Immigration Act, on the day he was scheduled to appear in court. They accuse Bennett of attempting to leave the country illegally.

His party has decried the charges as "trumped up."

His lawyer said Monday's court proceedings were canceled because prosecutors were unable to make it from the capital Harare to the court where the proceeding was to take place, in Mutare, 132 miles (213 km) away. It is unclear why local prosecutors are not being used.

Bennett's lawyer Trust Maanda says he hopes his client will appear on Tuesday.

"He is doing fine considering the conditions of the cells he is being kept in," Maanda said. "There is no food or running water, sanitation facilities are not working, the cells are overcrowded and there are no blankets."

Bennett was arrested on Friday while on his way to South Africa, where he has been living for three years.

Bennett, who is also the MDC party's treasurer, was pulled from an aircraft at the airport in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, the MDC said.

Police accuse him of funding the acquisition of weapons to commit the crimes he is charged with.

Bennett, a white coffee grower, is an old foe of Mugabe's government.

His farms were seized during the country's controversial land reform program. He has previously been jailed for assaulting Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa in parliament.

The arrest happened the same day that other MDC ministers in the new unity government took their oaths of office.

The power-sharing agreement came into effect only after months of on-again, off-again negotiations between Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, and the MDC, led by Morgan Tsvangirai.

Under Mugabe's government, the country has gone from being one of the breadbaskets of Africa to dire poverty.

A cholera epidemic is raging, much of the population lacks adequate food and water, many public sector workers are on strike, and the country suffers such severe inflation it recently knocked 12 zeroes off its currency.

--CNN's Nkepile Mabuse contributed to this report.

All About ZimbabweZimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic FrontMovement for Democratic Change

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