14 Feb 2009

Zimbabwe MDC official charged with treason

5:24 pm on 14 February 2009

Zimbabwean police have charged a senior MDC official with treason, just hours after a unity cabinet comprising the opposition party and President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF was sworn in.

Roy Bennett, who returned last month from three years of self-imposed exile in South Africa, where he had fled to escape charges of plotting to kill President Robert Mugabe, was arrested at a Harare airport.

He was later taken to the eastern city of Mutare where, according to the MDC, he was charged with treason.

"Police have again changed charges on Roy Bennett. They have now charged him with treason," the MDC statement said.

"These charges are scandalous, vexatious and without basis in law, but are simply politically motivated, simply intended to justify the continued incarceration of Roy Bennett," it added.

Bennett's lawyer, Trust Maanda, said the "police have orally told him of his treason charges.

"He was told of the treason charges but the police will formalise the charge documents tomorrow. His case is likely to come up in court either Monday or Tuesday," he said.

The swearing-in had already been held up by more than two hours as the MDC accused Mr Mugabe of trying to bring 22 ministers into cabinet, although their agreement allowed his ZANU-PF party only 15 seats.

In the end, Mr Mugabe swore in two extra ministers while the MDC took one more seat than expected.