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Zimbabwe drops some charges against Roy Bennett

The Zimbabwe government has finally seen sense and dropped some of the charges against Roy Bennett, former white farmer and top ally of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Zimbabwe prosecutors today withdrew charges of illegally holding grain against Bennett, a former white farmer who is already on trial for terrorism.

Bennett, treasurer of Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), will know on May 10 whether a High Court will drop the terrorism, banditry and sabotage charges that carry a possible death penalty.

The MDC said the grain charges were further proof that the former legislator was being politically persecuted by President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party. Mugabe has refused to swear in Bennett as deputy agriculture minister in the unity government.

In Bennett's most recent court appearance in March, police detectives served him with a summons to appear in court in eastern Zimbabwe on new charges of unlawfully possessing 92 tons of maize at his farm in 2001 before it was seized by Mugabe's government.

The new charges caused a fresh wave of criticism against the Mugabe regime by those who charged that the government was energetically pressing spurious charges against Bennett while ignoring investigations into serious human rights abuses.

"We are withdrawing those (grain) charges against Roy Bennett," Chris Mutangadura, a state prosecutor, told Reuters. He declined to give a reason.

The state's terrorism case — that Bennett planned to fund a 2006 plot to blow up a major communications link and assassinate key government officials — hinges on emails prosecutors say link the former commercial farmer to the crime.

But the case was dealt a blow in March when its chief witness, 49-year-old former policeman and arms dealer Peter Hitschmann, disowned the emails and denied Bennett was involved.