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Prominent Zimbabwean journalist released after two week detention

Friday November 20 2020
Zimbabwe pic

A Zimbabwean High Court judge on Friday released investigative journalist Hopewell Chin'ono on bail, two weeks after he was arrested on charges of obstructing justice.

The journalist, who spent over 40 days in a Harare maximum security prison after he was arrested in July for allegedly inciting protests through Twitter posts, is among tens of government critics that have been detained in the past four months.

High Court judge Tawanda Chitapi ruled on Friday that a magistrate court had erred in denying Mr Chin’ono bail.

The judge, however, ruled that the journalist should not use his Twitter account to post messages that obstruct justice.

“(Mr) Hopewell Chin’ono has been granted bail at the High Court,” the journalist’s lawyer Douglas Coltart said. 

“Justice Chitapi found that the magistrate grossly misdirected herself in denying the journalist bail.

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“He is expected to be released from Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison later this evening.”

Mr Chin’ono says he is being persecuted for speaking out against corruption cases where President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s family was implicated.

Last month, a High Court judge released him on bail on condition that he does not tweet any material that incites protests.

The latest arrest was linked to a tweet where the journalist said he had information that prosecutors would not challenge a bail application by a businesswoman, who had been caught at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport trying to smuggle six kilogrammes of gold to Dubai.

One of the businesswoman’s accomplices had told detectives the gold belonged to first lady Auxillia Mnangagwa.

The journalist was charged with "contempt of court and defeating or obstructing the course of justice" over the tweet.

In July, Mr Chin’ono was arrested alongside Jacob Ngarivhume, an opposition leader over their Twitter posts ahead of protests against corruption.

The protests were thwarted by security forces after the government claimed they were meant to topple President Mnangagwa.

Mr Ngarivhume was granted $600 bail while Mr Chin’ono was ordered to pay $120 for his freedom.

The duo's incarceration was met with global condemnation of President Mnangagwa’s government, which is accused of using the cover of Covid-19 to crush dissent.

A senior leader of the mainstream opposition   MDC Alliance, Job Sikhala  spent over 40 days in a maximum after he was arrested over the protests before he was given bail.

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BY KITSEPILE NYATHI

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