Prominent Zimbabwe journalist remains behind bars for tweet

Award-winning Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chin’ono was charged on Friday with obstructing justice and ordered held in a maximum-security prison.

Chin’ono is accused of breaching his bail conditions by tweeting about the court outcome of a gold smuggling scandal despite a ban on him posting on Twitter.

He had initially been arrested in July on charges of inciting public violence before planned anti-government protests but was freed in September on bail.

The 49-year-old, who was arrested again on Tuesday, arrived at the Harare magistrate’s court in leg irons and handcuffs, where he was charged with obstructing justice and contempt of court for the tweet.

His latest detention is linked to the arrest of Zimbabwe Miners Federation head Henrietta Rushwaya at Harare Airport on October 26 as she was about to board a flight to Dubai with six kilos (13 pounds) of gold in her hand luggage.

In a tweet, Chin’ono said he had talked to prosecutors about Rushwaya, an act which the state said had jeopardised “the integrity of the case against himself and that of Rushwaya”.

Harare magistrate Marehwanazvo Gofa ordered that Chin’ono be detained at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison, which houses convicted criminals on death row or serving life terms.

His legal team said his case should not be heard by a Special Anti-Corruption Court as it did not involve graft, and said the new detention conditions threatened their client’s welfare.

“Why is he being kept together with most- dangerous criminals in D Section when he is not a dangerous criminal?” lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa asked.

“Why is he being brought to court in leg irons and handcuffs, yet he should be at remand prison?”

Chin’ono had initially been detained for 45 days for “inciting public violence” before planned demonstrations against corruption and deteriorating living standards that were thwarted by a heavy deployment of police and soldiers.

Praised for his investigative journalism, he helped expose a multimillion-dollar scandal involving the procurement of coronavirus supplies in May.

He is scheduled to be back in court on Monday, when he is expected to apply for bail.

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