High Court Judge Justice Tedius Karwi on Tuesday granted bail to Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) National Treasurer and Deputy Agriculture Minister-Designate, Mr Roy Leslie Bennett. The bail was immediately suspended following the invocation of Section 121 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act (CPEA) by Mr Chris Mutangadura representing the State.
In his bail ruling, Justice Karwi ordered Bennett to deposit US$2 000 with the clerk of court at Mutare Magistrate Court and to reside at his Workington home in Harare until the matter is finalised. Reporting conditions to the Harare Central Law and Order section, surrender of Bennett’s travel documents and non-interference with State witnesses also formed part of the bail conditions. In granting bail to Bennett, Justice Karwi noted that Bennett was a suitable candidate for bail as he was unlikely to abscond having returned to Zimbabwe from South Africa on his own will. He was not likely to interfere with State witnesses as the State’s key witness Peter Hitschmann is serving a prison sentence. Furthermore, the interest of justice would be served by admitting Bennett to bail.
The invocation of section 121 of the CPEA effectively suspended the liberty of Bennett by retaining him in custody for a further seven (7) days to allow the state to file an appeal against the bail granted.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) condemns the State’s increasingly worrying abuse of section 121 of the CPEA. This provision, which is frequently used to the prejudice of political detainees, is clearly being used to justify the denial of the rights to liberty of detainees who are suitable candidates for bail. ZLHR is concerned about the increased number of cases in which section 121 has been invoked particularly against members of the MDC and other genuine human rights defenders. Initially isolated cases where 121 was invoked started in the wake of the March 2008 elections and this invocation has become commonplace. ZLHR is particularly dismayed that in most of these cases, after the expiry of the seven (7) days, the state would not have filed an appeal. The State through its officers from the Attorney General Office continues to maliciously violate the fundamental right to liberty, and legitimize their actions under the guise of section 121 of the CPEA.