Judge refuses to quit Zimbabwe terror trial

HARARE - The high court judge in Roy Bennett's terrorism trial yesterday refused to step aside after the defence said it feared he might be biased against the deputy agriculture minister-designate.

HARARE - The high court judge in Roy Bennett's terrorism trial yesterday refused to step aside after the defence said it feared he might be biased against the deputy agriculture minister-designate.

Bennett,, pictured, is on trial for allegedly plotting to overthrow President Robert Mugabe's government in 2006. His Movement for Democratic Change party says the charges are a political ploy to prevent the white farmer from taking up his post in the unity government.

Bennett's lawyers last week asked Judge Chinembiri Bhunu whether he would hand over to another judge, saying his handling of a related 2006 trial showed he might be "prejudicial" to Bennett.

But Bhunu has refused, saying the case of Peter Hitschmann and that of Bennett were separate.

Hitschmann, an arms dealer, was arrested in 2005 and sentenced to 30 months on weapons possession charges. He says that while in detention he was forced into incriminating Bennett in a plot against the government. He has since retracted the confession.

Last week, Bhunu dismissed the defence's concerns over the use of Hitschmann's confession against Bennett.

Bennett was charged in court yesterday with being the financier of a plot - with Hitschmann - to overthrow the state. - Sapa-DPA

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