NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) – A prominent Zimbabwean journalist accused of sharing lies has been sent to prison solitary confinement after it emerged he was likely exposed to people with COVID-19 before his arrest.
Zimbabwe police arrested Hopewell Chin’ono for the third time in five months on Friday. The latest arrest comes after he tweeted that police beat a baby to death while enforcing COVID-19 lockdown rules this week. Police later said the information was false.
On Saturday, his lawyers pleaded for his freedom, claiming his arrest was illegal, but the court could not finish hearing the arguments and took him into custody.
His lawyer, Harrison Nkomo, said Chin’ono could have been exposed to people who had since tested positive for COVID-19 during a recent visit to South Africa – a reason he should be allowed to stay his home.
The prosecution, on the other hand, argued that his exposure was a reason for sending him to pretrial detention “to ensure everyone’s safety” until he undergoes a medical examination.
Magistrate Lazini Ncube ordered Chin’ono to be transported to prison separately from the other prisoners and kept in solitary confinement while his request for release continues to be heard on Monday.
The magistrate said Chin’ono should be given blankets and hot water, conditions that were not available during his previous stays in prison, according to his lawyers.
Prior to the latest arrest, Chin’ono was released on bail for incitement to violence after expressing support for an anti-government protest in July, as well as contempt of court for allegedly alleged corruption within the national prosecution.
Chin’ono is one of Zimbabwe’s most prominent critics of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration, accusing it of corruption and human rights violations. The government denies the charges.
Prior to his arrest in July, Chin’ono posted a Twitter post alleging corruption involving a $ 60 million purchase of protective equipment for health workers.
Mnangagwa subsequently fired the Minister of Health, who was officially charged with corruption. Chin’ono and his supporters say he is targeted for exposing government corruption. The government and the ruling party accuse him of wanting to tarnish Mnangagwa’s image.