|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
From SAPA, 17 April
Editor charged with criminal defamation
Harare - The editor of an independent weekly newspaper in Zimbabwe was on Wednesday charged with criminal defamation after his paper ran a story alleging President Robert Mugabe's wife's brother was involved in a labour dispute at a white-owned firm. Editor Iden Wetherell said he signed a "warned and cautioned statement" and had his fingerprints taken before being released after 90 minutes. He said he was charged along with Dumisani Muleya, the correspondent for South Africa's Business Day newspaper. Muleya was on Monday charged with "criminal defamation" or, alternatively, with "publishing falsehoods", in a report last week which said that the brother of Mugabe's young wife, Grace, had been trying to use her position to help him seize control of a white-owned company for which he worked. Commenting on his arrest, Wetherell said the police were "perfectly courteous".
Observers say a pattern of growing repression has emerged since Zimbabwe's presidential elections last month. Pro-Mugabe militias have, according to observers, carried out a wave of violent retribution against people suspected of having supported the Movement of Democratic Change in the elections. Now the regime appeared to be targeting the independent press, they said. On Monday Geoff Nyarota, editor of the Daily News, the country's only independent newspaper, became the first person to be charged under the new Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, for a report which said that Mugabe aides had rigged his election. Two weeks ago, Peta Thornycroft, correspondent here for Britain's Daily Telegraph, was arrested and held for four days, on charges she described as "incoherent."
Meanwhile the Zimbabwean government on Wednesday deported a former top US official. John Prendergast, a co-director of the International Crisis Group (ICG), the respected Brussels-based political think-tank, was refused admission and arrested when he arrived at Harare international airport, a friend who asked not to be named said. "They just turned him round and now he's waiting for the next plane out," said a friend who was telephoned by Prendergast from the airport. US embassy spokeswoman Heather Lippett said "a US citizen was detained and deported" from Zimbabwe, but would not name Prendergast, whowas also the director of African affairs on former United States president Bill Clinton's National Security Council. "The government of Zimbabwe has not provided the embassy with any information regarding the motivation for this action," she said. The ICG is composed mostly of former senior officials of Western governments, including Australia's former foreign minister, Gareth Evans. Prendergast has helped author reports criticising Mugabe's regime and also lobbied for the imposition of sanctions targeted specifically against Mugabe and members of his ruling clique. The sanctions, initiated by the United States and the European Union, include a ban on travel to countries imposing the measures.