Zimbabwean journalist denied bail for alleging corruption

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Zimbabwe investigative journalist Hopewell Chinono gets out of a prison van at the magistrates courts in handcuffs in Harare, Friday, Nov. 6, 2020. Chinono is one of Zimbabwes most prominent critics of President Emmerson Mnangagwas administration, accusing it of corruption and human rights abuses. The government denies the charges. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

HARARE – A Zimbabwean magistrate Thursday denied bail to an investigative journalist who has been in detention for more than a week for alleging corruption in the country’s prosecuting agency, sending him back to a harsh prison in which he recently spent six weeks on a separate charge.

Hopewell Chin'ono is being charged with obstruction of justice arising from a tweet he made alleging corrupt practices within Zimbabwe's National Prosecuting Authority. He faces up to a year in jail or a fine if convicted. Prosecutors dropped a separate charge of contempt of court.

Chin'ono was denied bail on the grounds that he could commit other offenses if released. The magistrate cited a pending case in which he is accused of tweeting support for an anti-government protest.

“The accused is not a good candidate for bail,” magistrate Marehwanazvo Gofa said.

Chin’ono recently spent nearly six weeks in the harsh Chikurubi prison on accusations of supporting an anti-government protest. He was released on bail in September pending trial, which has been set for December.

“It’s clear that he is being targeted for his journalism, that was made very clear in these charges that they are about his journalism and his sources. He has been fearlessly reporting on corruption issues and that’s what this is about,” said Doug Coltart, one of his lawyers. He said they will appeal to the High Court “as soon as possible.”

During the bail hearing, Chin'ono refused to reveal the sources allegedly feeding him information about the prosecution agency. His other lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, argued during earlier bail hearing proceedings that Chinóno should not be punished for doing his job.

“Hopewell is a journalist and it’s his day to day job to share information,” she argued, saying Chin'ono “is a whistleblower. Prosecuting him would discourage other whistleblowers from exposing corruption in Zimbabwe.”

Chin’ono is one of Zimbabwe’s most prominent critics of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration, accusing it of corruption and human rights abuses. The government denies the charges.

Before he was arrested in July, Chin’ono had published an expose on Twitter in which he alleged corruption involving a $60 million purchase of protective equipment for health workers. Mnangagwa later fired the health minister, who has been formally charged with corruption in the case.