Zimbabwean journalist and anti-corruption campaigner Hopewell Chin’ono will be forced to spend the weekend in a high security prison after a magistrate postponed his bail hearing to Monday.
Chin’ono was rearrested at his home in the capital, Harare, on Tuesday evening for allegedly breaking his bail conditions and has been detained since.
He was first arrested in July after publishing a series of investigations into corruption by senior public officials in Zimbabwe on the purchase of PPE supplies intended to combat COVID-19.
Chin’ono was held in an overcrowded cell in Chikurubi high-security prison for almost six weeks pending trial on charges of inciting violence for supporting a planned demonstration against corruption.
On his release in September, Chin’ono was effectively banned from using social media for anything that could be seen as critical of the Zanu-PF government. He did, however, give a series of media interviews in which he described the horrific conditions he faced in prison.
Beatrice Mtwetwa, Zimbabwe’s best-known human rights lawyer, told the court on Friday that Chin’ono, who has not yet faced trial, was being detained with convicted prisoners and had been held for more than 48 hours before being brought to court.
He was brought to court just before the end of the day on Thursday, which his lawyers said was a deliberate tactic to delay proceedings.
The new charge is related to comments Chin’ono made about Henrietta Rushwaya, the president of the Zimbabwe Miners’ Federation, who was arrested last week at Harare’s airport and has been charged with attempting to smuggle gold to Dubai.
According to court papers, Chin’ono “claims to be engaged in a relationship with the national prosecution authority thereby jeopardising the integrity of the case against himself and that of Henrietta Rushwaya.” Rushwaya has denied any wrongdoing.
Chin’ono, who denies the new charge against him, was brought to court in leg irons.
The EU’s office in Zimbabwe expressed concern over his re-arrest and detention. “Hopewell Chin’ono’s detention sends a chilling signal on freedom of opinion and expression in Zimbabwe.”
“Exposing corruption is not a crime, the fight against corruption is a declared government priority,” it said on Twitter.
The British ambassador to Zimbabwe, Melanie Robinson, said Chin’ono had “consistently spoken out about corruption in Zimbabwe” and expressed concerns “about the signals the case against him sends to journalists here”. (Source: The Guardian)