HIGH Court Judge Justice Jester Charewa on Wednesday 28 April 2021 ended the persecution of freelance journalist Hopewell Chin’ono by setting aside his prosecution on charges of publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the State and ruling that the anti-corruption campaigner had been arrested and prosecuted based on a non-existent law.
Justice Charewa made the ruling after Chin’ono’s lawyer Harrison Nkomo of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights petitioned the High Court challenging the decision by Harare Magistrate Lazini Ncube to place the freelance journalist on remand on a charge which was non-existent as it had been invalidated as unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court several years ago.
In challenging the placement of Chin’ono on remand, Nkomo had argued that once a law is declared invalid in terms of Zimbabwe’s old Constitution, it remains invalid even under the current Constitution which was enacted in 2013.
Justice Charewa agreed with Nkomo and ruled that section 31(a)(iii) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act that is publishing or communicating falsehoods prejudicial to the State is no longer part of Zimbabwean law.
Chin’ono had been on remand after he was arrested by Zimbabwe Republic Police officers on Friday 8 January 2021 and charged with publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the State as defined in section 31(a)(iii) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act after he allegedly tweeted about the abuse of a minor by a police officer.
In court, prosecutors claimed that the award-winning freelance journalist undermined public confidence in a law enforcement agency when he allegedly tweeted about an incident in which a woman and her baby were roughed up by some ZRP members in Harare in January 2021.
Chin’ono’s arrest on 8 January 2021 was the third time that the freelance journalist has been arrested in a period of six months. He was first arrested in July 2020 and charged with inciting people to revolt against President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration during some planned anti-government protests called for at the end of July.
The law enforcement agents alleged that Chin’ono had incited people to participate in a gathering with intent to promote public violence, breaches of peace or bigotry as defined in section 187(1)(a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act as read with section 37(1)(a)(i) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. ZRP members also pressed alternative charges of incitement to commit public violence as defined in section 187(1)(a) as read with section 36(1)(a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
On 3 November 2020, Chin’ono was arrested again and charged with contempt of court as defined in section 182(1)(a) and (b) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act over a tweet which he allegedly posted on Twitter in October 2020. He is yet to stand trial on all of these charges.
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