Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chin'ono arrives at court in Harare, Zimbabwe, August 7 2020. Picture: REUTERS/PHILIMON BULAWAYO
Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chin'ono arrives at court in Harare, Zimbabwe, August 7 2020. Picture: REUTERS/PHILIMON BULAWAYO

A Harare high court judge on Wednesday said he will hand down judgment on journalist Hopewell Chin’ono’s bail appeal on Friday.

Chin’ono, who is an outspoken government critic, was rearrested early in November on charges of defeating the course of justice and breaching his bail conditions.

The anti-corruption campaigner is being held in a maximum security prison, and his lawyers say the state is persecuting him for criticising and exposing corruption in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.

Chin’ono spent more than a month in prison before he was released on bail on September 2.

On his release, Chin’ono was virtually banned from using social media for anything that could be seen as critical of the ruling Zanu-PF government.

However, he was rearrested a fortnight ago on allegations of obstructing the course of justice and defying his bail conditions after tweeting statements that criticised the National Prosecuting Authority.

After hearing the appeal on Wednesday, Harare high court judge Tawanda Chitapi said he will make the bail ruling on November 20.

Chin’ono’s lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, said the lower magistrate’s court had erred in denying bail to the journalist last week.

 “The magistrate grossly erred in denying the appellant bail. She also erred in finding that he had the propensity to reoffend and that there is reasonable suspicion that a crime was committed,” said Mtetwa.

She added there was no evidence Chin’ono had a propensity to commit offences, as suggested by the magistrate who had initially denied him bail last week.

 “That was a clear misdirection. We respectfully pray that you release the appellant on current bail conditions. Should you find there should be more conditions, we are bound to abide by the same,” said Mtetwa.

Chin’ono has gained support from several prominent officials around the world who say that he is being persecuted.

Former DA leader Mmusi Maimane on Wednesday tweeted in support of Chin’ono, saying his arrest is “an affront to media freedoms and speech freedoms”.

One of the lawyers representing Chin’ono, Douglas Coltart, said they were concerned about their client’s health.

“We’re informed there is an outbreak of bronchitis, hepatitis B and TB at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison and he has also been moved to a more overcrowded cell (46 inmates in a cell with capacity for 16).

“The conditions in our prisons is unacceptable and need to be urgently dealt with holistically by government — not just for Hopewell, but for all prisoners who are affected.”

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