Page last updated at 14:30 GMT, Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Zimbabwe MDC MP held despite bail

Roy Bennett (file photo)
Mr Bennett was arrested on the day he was meant to be sworn in

A Zimbabwean judge has ordered a senior member of PM Morgan Tsvangirai's party to remain in custody, despite being granted bail, after the state objected.

MDC treasurer-general Roy Bennett will be held for at least another week to give the Attorney General's office time to appeal against the bail.

Mr Bennett, a minister-designate, was arrested on 13 February - the day his party joined a power-sharing cabinet.

He denies several charges which include terrorism and illegal arms possession.

The Movement for Democratic Change has called his arrest politically motivated and designed to derail the fledgling unity government.

Hopes dashed

High Court Judge Justice Tedious Karwi ruled Mr Bennett should be granted conditional bail.

The deputy agriculture minister- designate was ordered to pay US$2,000, surrender his passport and report to a police station twice a week.

They want him to remain in custody at all costs
Trust Maanda
Roy Bennett's lawyer

The decision was greeted with relief by friends and relatives of Mr Bennett, who embraced each other in the court room.

The celebrations however were cut short when state prosecutors asked for time to consider an appeal, drawing gasps from Mr Bennett's supporters.

Justice Karwe immediately granted the request, giving the Attorney General's office seven days in which to file the appeal.

Mr Bennett's lawyer, Trust Maanda, said he was disappointed by the move.

"Despite the fact that he [Mr Bennett] has been given stringent bail conditions, I found it strange that they still opposed the bail," he said.

"They want him to remain in custody at all costs."

A white farmer who lost his property under Mr Mugabe's land reform programme, Mr Bennett spent eight months in prison in 2004-05 for pushing a minister during an argument in parliament over land reform.

He recently returned to Zimbabwe after more than two years in South Africa, where he had fled after police sought his arrest in connection with an alleged plot to kill President Robert Mugabe.

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