HARARE – Award-winning Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chin’ono was charged on Friday with contempt of court and ordered held in a maximum security prison.
Chin’ono is accused of breaching his bail conditions by tweeting about a gold smuggling scandal despite a ban on posting on Twitter.
He had initially been arrested in July on charges of inciting public violence ahead of planned anti-government protests but was freed in September on bail.
The 49-year-old, who was arrested again on Tuesday, arrived at the Harare magistrates court in leg irons and handcuffs, where he was charged with obstructing justice and contempt of court over the tweet.
It referred to the arrest of Zimbabwe Miners Federation head Henrieta Rushwaya at Harare Airport on October 26 as she was about to board a flight to Dubai with six kilos of gold in her hand luggage.
In his tweet, Chin’ono alleged that Chief Justice Luke Malaba had exerted pressure on magistrates in the case, echoing a view expressed in a letter penned to President Emmerson Mnangagwa by the country’s judges.
Harare magistrate Marehwanazvo Gofa ordered that Chin’ono be detained at Chikurubi Maximum Prison which houses convicted criminals on death row or serving life terms.
Chin’ono had initially been detained for 45 days for “inciting public violence” ahead of planned demonstrations against corruption and deteriorating living standards that were thwarted by a heavy deployment of police and soldiers.
His legal team said his case should not be heard by the Special Anti-Corruption Court as it did not involve graft, and said the detention conditions threatened their client’s welfare.
“Why he is being kept together with most- dangerous criminals in D Section when he is not a dangerous criminal?” attorney Beatrice Mtetwa asked.
“Why is he being brought to court in leg irons and handcuffs yet he should be at remand prison?”
Chin’ono, praised for his investigative journalism, in May helped expose a multimillion-dollar scandal involving the procurement of coronavirus supplies.
He is scheduled to be back in court Monday when he is expected to apply for bail