Picture: 123RF/STOCKSTUDIO44
Picture: 123RF/STOCKSTUDIO44

Harare —  A Harare magistrate on Thursday denied bail to journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, saying he had shown disrespect for the courts by committing another offence while he was out on bail.

Chin’ono, a critic of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, was rearrested last week for allegedly breaking his bail conditions and defeating the course of justice.

In her ruling against Chin’ono on Thursday, presiding magistrate Marehwanazvo Gofa said that  in committing another offence while on bail for the July violence incitement charge the journalist had shown defiance. She said he could be involved in similar offences if granted bail.

“Court is inclined to believe state’s submissions that he has a propensity to continue committing offences as he committed this offence with another matter pending before the courts,” she said.

Chin’ono has denied all charges, saying he is being persecuted for exposing corruption in the government.

The journalist was first arrested in July and spent more than a month in detention without trial for allegedly inciting Zimbabweans to demonstrate against the government on July 31. Police and troops crushed the demonstrations to protest against the economic hardships, high-level corruption and political intolerance of  the Mnangagwa government.

Chin’ono’s lawyer, former cabinet minister Douglas  Coltart, said he would approach the high court to appeal against the magistrate’s ruling.

Coltart said if Chin’ono was denied bail at the Harare High Court he might have to remain in custody until the start of his trials on November 26 and December 7.

“Not only is the charge spurious but a person is innocent until proven guilty. He has not been found guilty of any crime and so the finding that he has a propensity to commit crimes is bad in law.”

Other observers say Zimbabwe’s judiciary, which has been accused of bias against antigovernment critics, is  hounding Chin’ono.

Chin’ono’s lawyers said on Thursday that the suggestion he would commit other offences was unfounded because the journalist had no previous convictions.

Former finance minister and MDC Alliance vice-president Tendai Biti said that denying Chin’ono bail was an indication that Zimbabwe had “gone to the dogs”.

“His incarceration and abuse reflect the brutality, ruthlessness and incorrigibility of Mnangagwa. Zimbabwe now finds itself in the hands of paranoid, psychotic [and] predatory renegades without shame.”

“We have truly gone to the dogs,” said Biti.

Update: November 12 2020
This story has been updated throughout.

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