Zimbabwe Frees Tortured Journalist, Bans Him from Social Media, Takes His House

Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chin'ono is embraced by a supporter following speaking to the press after his release on bail from Chikurubi Maximum Prison in Harare, on September 2, 2020. - Opposition politician Jacob Ngarivhume and award-winning journalist Hopewell Chin'ono were granted bail on September 2, 2020 at their fourth attempt …

Zimbabwe’s high court released investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono on bail on Wednesday after he spent six weeks in jail for his support of an anti-government protest, New Zimbabwe reported.

Chin’ono, 49, was released on $10,000 bail pending trial on charges of inciting public violence after he tweeted his support for an anti-government demonstration this summer. He was arrested for the act on July 20.

“The appeal be and is hereby granted. The reasons given by the magistrate in denying him bail are hereby set aside,” High Court judge Tawanda Chitapi ruled, referring to Chin’ono’s three previous attempts to secure bail.

The journalist “was ordered to surrender his passport and title deeds to his Chisipite home [in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare] with court authorities,” according to the newspaper.

Upon his release, Chin’ono told journalists that he felt “strengthened” by his time in jail and that it had redoubled his resolve to continue investigating government corruption in Zimbabwe. According to the Associated Press (AP), Chin’ono’s bail conditions “ban him from using Twitter until his trial is finished,” but he vowed to find an alternative platform for his reporting.

Shortly before his arrest on July 20, Chin’ono reported on alleged corruption within Zimbabwe’s government related to a $60 million purchase of coronavirus medical supplies by the health ministry. Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa later fired the country’s health minister, Obediah Moyo, over the scandal. Moyo has since been formally charged with corruption.

Prior to his release, New Zimbabwe reported that Chin’ono “looked frail when he appeared before Harare magistrate Ngoni Nduna on Tuesday with lawyers insisting the journalist was not supposed to be in court after a private doctor had indicated Monday he may have contracted Covid-19 [Chinese coronavirus] while in prison custody.”

One of Chin’ono’s lawyers, Taona Nyamakura, told the court on Tuesday that the journalist’s coronavirus symptoms should have precluded him from appearing in court.

“His condition may be exposing everyone in the courtroom [to coronavirus] as prison authorities forced him to come to court,” Nyamakura said. “His condition requires him not to be in contact with other people until he is given the green light to do so by his physician.”

According to the report, “[t]he court heard that prison wardens dragged Chin’ono out of his cell on the pretext that his physician wanted to see him, only [for him] to be brought to court.”

Upon his release from jail on Wednesday, Chin’ono said he had a fever but was “feeling much better,” while responding to questions about his coronavirus symptoms.

“Mentally, I am fine,” he added, according to the AP.


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