Zimbabwean editor, media lawyer charged, released

New York, May 9, 2008—In separate cases today, a magistrate court in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, released from police custody a top newspaper editor and a leading lawyer working in defense of journalists. Both were formally charged, however, according to local sources.

Davison Maruziva, editor of Zimbabwe’s leading Sunday newspaper, The Standard, was charged with publishing false statements prejudicial to the state and contempt of court for running a column last month by opposition leader Arthur Mutambara that was critical of President Robert Mugabe’s regime, Standard publisher Raphael Khumalo told CPJ.

In a separate case, prosecutors charged leading media lawyer Harrison Nkomo with “undermining the authority or insulting the president,” in connection with allegations that he told government attorney Michael Mugabe to tell “his father” to step down shortly before a May 2 court hearing , defense lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa told CPJ. Mtetwa cited a court transcript referring to Michael Mugabe as a nephew of President Mugabe. Prosecutors added to Nkomo’s charge sheet “disorderly behavior or conduct,” that could be caused by his remarks.

 “We are relieved that Davison Maruziwa and Harrison Nkomo are finally free. Neither should have spent a single day in custody,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “We call on the court to dismiss all charges against them and bring to an end this pattern of police harassment and unwarranted prosecutions.”

Maruziva was released at 1:30 p.m. local time after posting a bail and is expected to appear in court on May 23, Khumalo said.

Nkomo was discharged from Harare’s main Parirenyatwa Hospital earlier today after being rushed there while in custody on Thursday because of high blood pressure. He was released on bail and his next court appearance will be on May 23, Mtetwa said.

Several journalists, both foreign and domestic, have been jailed while covering the political stalemate and violence following Zimbabwe’s contested March 29 elections.