Zimbabwe’s High Court on Wednesday quashed charges of publishing falsehoods levelled against journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, saying the law used by police to arrest him no longer exists.
Chin’ono, 50, a staunch government critic, has been detained three times since he backed banned anti-government protests on social media in July, when he was first arrested and charged with inciting public violence.
Two tweets landed him back in jail for allegedly obstructing justice in November and later publishing false information in January. The high court of Zimbabwe dismissed the latter charge on Wednesday, declaring it had no legal basis.
Lawyers had argued that Chin’ono had been charged under a section of the criminal code that had been struck down by the Supreme Court in 2014.
On Wednesday, the high court judge Jesta Charehwa ruled “the argument is upheld … Charges against the appellant [are]hereby quashed.”
Chin’ono celebrated the ruling on his Twitter account. “Charged with a law that doesn’t exist,” he wrote. “That is persecution.”
The journalist was last jailed for posting a video he claimed showed a police officer beating a baby to death while enforcing Covid-19 lockdown rules – an account that was vehemently denied.
In November, Chin’ono was arrested for posting a tweet ahead of a judicial decision. He is facing trial for the alleged obstruction of justice in that case.
He is freed on bail and banned from using Twitter to post anything that might incite public revolt against the government.
Zimbabwe’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, is increasingly under fire for thwarting dissent since he took over from the longtime leader Robert Mugabe in November 2017.