Zimbabwe: Tortured journalists’ trial deferred

New York, January 6, 2000—The trial of Sunday Standard journalists Mark Chavunduka and Ray Choto has been deferred to July 2000. At a hearing in Harare yesterday, the magistrate remanded the two until July 7, pending the outcome of their constitutional challenge to the legislation under which they were charged.

Military officers arrested and illegally detained Chavunduka and Choto on January 12, following a report in their newspaper that soldiers had plotted to remove President Robert Mugabe from power because of alleged economic mismanagement, and because of Zimbabwe’s military involvement in the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Both journalists were severely tortured by government agents.

They were charged with causing “alarm and despondency” under a provision in the Law and Order Maintenance Act (LOMA). The Supreme Court is scheduled to consider the constitutional challenge to the LOMA in March 2000. The two journalists have also pressed charges against the police and army over their assault and torture.