BY MOSES MATENGA
A UNITED States senator has claimed that the acquittal of freelance journalist Hopewell Chin’ono on charges of inciting public violence vindicated claims by critics that his arrest was a ploy to silence government detractors.
Senator Jim Risch, who is the chairperson and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said it was clear from the onset that Chin’ono was not guilty.
High Court judge Justice Siyabona Musithu on Tuesday cleared Chin’ono, citing errors and inexact wording on the charge sheet.
In 2020, Chin’ono spent two months in jail after backing anti-government protests meant for July 31 that year.
Risch then took to Twitter, saying Chin’ono was being persecuted by the regime.
“It’s typical of the Zanu PF party in Zimbabwe to punish and silence political opponents by detaining and prosecuting them on false charges, only to dismiss the case months later. We all know Hopewell Chin’ono did not commit any crimes. All he did was exposing the crimes of the regime,” Risch said on Tuesday.
Chin’ono was accused of posting tweets the State alleged were in support of, and promoting planned demonstrations on July 31 last year.
Several activists, including the MDC Alliance vice-chairman Job Sikhala and Transform Zimbabwe leader Jacob Ngarivhume were arrested and their cases are pending at the courts.
Recently, Norton legislator Temba Mliswa (Independent) called on the government to leave human rights defenders alone and stop criminalising their work.
He said this while raising a point of order with the Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda on Tuesday.
In paying tribute to the late human rights defender, Dewa Mavhunga, who succumbed to COVID-19 this week, Mliswa said: “It is sad that people who advocate for anything or activists in many ways in this country are said to be anti-government.
“They are not anti-government, they are the ones who the government must be listening to, to engage so that there is a way forward.”
- Follow Moses on Twitter @mmatenga