Zimbabwe: Editor released but “dark times are back”

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After a 24 hour detention in Harare’s Rhodesville police station, a Zimbabwean court has ordered the release of Nevanji Madanhire, editor of a privately owned newspaper. Madanhire was arrested on Tuesday for publishing a story alleging that a recall of veteran officers loyal the Southern African country’s octogenarian president ahead of next year’s presidential polls was ongoing.

Editor of The Standard newspaper, Nevanji Madanhire has been granted a US$100 bail by Don Ndirowei, a Harare magistrate, after he was formally charged with publishing an article that ‘undermines’ confidence in the country’s security forces.

The article, written by Nqobani Ndlovu, claimed that police were recalling veteran officers loyal to 86 year old President Robert Mugabe to conduct operations ahead of next year’s presidential polls.

Mr Chris Mhike, Madanhire’s lawyer has promised to challenge the placement of his client, who has been remanded to December 16, after he argued that the arrest was part of a concerted campaign to silence journalists who are critical of the government.

The state sought to have Madanhire given stringent bail conditions including paying a deposit of US$200 and reporting once every Friday at a police station. But the magistrate threw out the reporting condition and slashed the bail deposit by half.

Judge Don Ndirowei also ordered the state to investigate complaints that the police abused their power by detaining Madanhire for 24 hours even when it was clear that he had no case to answer.

This came after an application for the investigation was filed by Madanhire’s lawyer arguing that the police had violated a basic right by holding his client overnight even after he had turned himself in.

Said Mr Mhike before the court: “There has been a disturbing trend by police to arrest and detain people even without any evidence. This is clear abuse of office by the police.

“It seems that the dark times of human rights violations are back, and I urge the court to make investigations.”

Nevanji Madanhire’s lawyer also observed that cases of harassment of journalists by the police were on the rise.

Madanhire’s arrest came barely a week after another journalist from The Standard was detained for 10 days, between November 17 and 26, over the same story. Nqobani Ndlovu was released by the High Court on $100 bail last Friday.

Zimbabwean journalists say they fear the case is a precursor of worse things to come as the volatile country prepares for fresh elections mid next year.

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