HARARE – Shouting and commotion disrupted Zimbabwe's normally staid Magistrates Court Thursday when investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono was ordered to spend a third night in detention after a magistrate said she could only hear his case on contempt of court charges on Friday.
“Are you not embarrassed? You have no shame!” a handcuffed Chin'ono shouted as police led him into the courtroom. Police with batons later tried to disperse journalists from the courtroom, but proceedings resumed after the reporters refused to leave.
Chin’ono has been in police custody since Tuesday. His lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa argued that he should be freed when he appeared in court Thursday, arguing that police had detained the journalist for more than the prescribed 48 hours. Magistrate Gofa Marehwanazvo said she would determine the matter Friday. In the meantime, the journalist will spend the night in prison.
This is the second time Chin’ono has been imprisoned this year. He spent nearly six weeks in the harsh Chikurubi prison before being released on bail pending trial in September after he tweeted in support of an anti-government protest.
This time, prosecutors accuse him of making posts on Twitter that allegedly impaired the dignity of Zimbabwe’s Chief Justice Luke Malaba and also disparaged the country’s national prosecuting agency.
The outspoken journalist and his sympathizers allege he is being targeted for exposing government corruption.
In court on Thursday, he questioned why the police were taking him to an anti-corruption court when he was not being charged with committing corruption.
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.