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Zimbabwean journalist Chin’ono released after three-week detention

Thursday January 28 2021
Hopewell Chin'ono.

Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chin'ono speaks to the press after his release on bail from Chikurubi Maximum Prison in Harare on September 2, 2020. PHOTO | AFP

By KITSEPILE NYATHI

A Zimbabwean High Court judge on Wednesday released prominent journalist Hopewell Chin'ono on bail after he spent nearly three weeks in jail for allegedly communicating falsehoods.

Chin'ono was arrested on January 9 for tweeting that a police officer had allegedly beaten an infant to death while enforcing Covid-19 lockdown regulations.

The journalist had commented on a video allegedly showing a police officer being confronted by a mother carrying the seemingly lifeless baby, which went viral on social media.

He was arrested alongside mainstream opposition MDC Alliance spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere and the party's vice chairman Sikhala over the same case.

High Court judge David Foroma released Mr Chin’ono on $200 bail.

The trio's arrest, however, has been described as unconstitutional by legal experts, who say the legal statute used by the police was struck down by the courts.

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“(Mr Chin’ono) should never have been arrested in the first place,” said David Coltart, a legal expert and former Education minister.

“The policeman, prosecutors and magistrate responsible for his illegal detention in Covid-19 ridden conditions must be held responsible.”

Ms Mahere, who was granted bail last week, tested positive to Covid-19 upon her release from jail. Mr Sikhala remains in custody.

The United States embassy in Harare said the arrests were not justified under the country’s laws.

“Zimbabwe's 2013 constitution protects free speech and the rights of the arrested,” the embassy said on Wednesday.

“All Zimbabweans should benefit from those fundamental freedoms equally.

“No citizen should face prosecution under laws already deemed unconstitutional.” 

The January 9 arrest was the third time Mr Chin’ono was being detained over his tweets in six months.

At the time he was out on bail on two other charges after he was arrested twice last year.

In December last year, he was freed by the High Court after spending two weeks in remand prison on charges of obstructing justice.

The journalist spent over 40 days in a Harare maximum security prison after he was arrested in July 2020 for allegedly inciting protests through Twitter posts.

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

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