Friday, January 15, 2010

(NEWZIMBABWE) AG lambasts state witness in Bennett trial

AG lambasts state witness in Bennett trial
15/01/2010 00:00:00

ATTORNEY General, Johannes Tomana turned on his main witness in the ongoing terrorism trial of Roy Bennet, accusing him of trying to damage the state’s case by giving evidence beneficial to the MDC-T politician.

Bennett is on trial at the Harare High Court facing charges of terrorism, insurgency, sabotage, banditry and a plot to kill President Robert Mugabe, which carry a maximum death sentence. He denies the charges.

The prosecution, led by the attorney general wants the High Court to convict Bennett by relying on written confessions and a video recording made by gun dealer and ex-Rhodesian policeman Peter Hitschmann in 2006.

But during Thursday’s hearing, Hitschmann, who has previously disowned the confessions, denied being involved in an anti-government plot with Bennett and repeated claims that he was tortured to implicate the MDC-T treasurer-general.

However, Tomana said Hitschmann's evidence in court would damage the state's case but insisted he would seek to show that the confessions were made voluntarily as well as cross-examine the witness to discredit statements he has made in court.

"The state is of the view that the witness is deliberately being adverse to the state case with the view to unlawfully shield the accused person.

"The evidence that has been adopted as the truth by the witness has the effect of damaging the state's case or prejudicing the state," Tomana said

Presiding judge, Justice Chinembiri Bhunu asked Hitschmann to explain the discrepancies in his evidence in court and the written and video confessions he made in 2006.

Hitschmann told the court he had no links with Bennett and did not buy weapons of war. He disowned some of the weapons attributed to him by the state as well as e-mail print-outs purportedly showing communication between him and Bennett.

He said he was tortured into making confessions at a military barracks in March 2006.

"The prosecution, in my humble view, has not played a fair game in forcing through this so called evidence. I continue to deny any and all statements whether signed or unsigned or video which differ in content with my consistent testimony in my trial and in these proceedings," Hitschmann said.

The arms dealer, 49, was jailed for possession of dangerous weapons in 2006, a conviction and sentence he is appealing, but was acquitted on the more serious terrorism charges.

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