US, UK journalists released on bail in Zim

A Zimbabwean court on Monday released a United States journalist and a British national on bail after charging them with reporting on the March 29 elections without accreditation, their lawyer said.

“They have both been released on Z$300-million bail,” lawyer Harrison Nkomo told journalists outside the court.

The bail amount is equivalent to $10 000 according to the official exchange rate.

New York Times correspondent Barry Bearak (58) and a British national were arrested at a Harare guest house on Thursday.

The Briton has been identified as Stephen Bevan (45), who has written for newspapers such as the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, Observer and Sunday Mirror.

Nkomo said that Bearak had been badly injured while in detention and needed medical treatment.

“... the Briton was ordered to reside at the British Embassy and the American was ordered to stay at Dandaro Clinic because he fell in the cells and sustained serious injuries, so he needs medical attention,” Nkomo said.

Zimbabwean police were not immediately available for comment.

He said the pair had been told to reappear in court on Thursday and ordered to stay in Harare.

Meanwhile, the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) said on Monday it was deeply alarmed at the manner in which Zimbabwean authorities had detained the two foreign correspondents, as well as two South African technicians employed by a satellite TV service company, Globecast, in the last week.

The technicians, Aipho Maseko and Abdulla Gaibee, were arrested on March 28 but acquitted on April 4 of charges under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Immediately after their release they were re-arrested.

The two technicians were formally charged with defeating the ends of justice in a Harare court on Monday, the brother of one of the men said.

“Sanef strongly protests at the treatment meted out to the journalists and technicians, especially the latter who had complied with all requirements to enter Zimbabwe and carry out their duties,” it said in a statement.

“Sanef calls for the immediate release of the four men and any other journalists or media personnel arrested by the Zimbabwe authorities while carrying out their duties in Zimbabwe and holds the Zimbabwe authorities responsible for any harm that they may suffer.”

Meeting

It was reported on Monday by Agence France-Presse (AFP) that Zimbabwe’s opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, met with a South African minister on his first foreign trip since the March 29 polls he claims to have won, a witness said.

Tsvangirai had lunch in Johannesburg with Minister of Provincial and Local Government Sydney Mufamadi, who is a member of South African President Thabo Mbeki’s negotiating team on Zimbabwe, the witness told AFP.

However, MDC spokesperson in South Africa Nqobizitha Mlilo said Tsvangirai met up with “general friends” and officials from the party’s regional office.

“He was just discussing normal party activity ... There’s nothing to write home about, it was just an ordinary visit to the office.”

Mlilo said Tsvangirai did not have any meeting with South African government officials.

The visit by Tsvangirai, who has declared himself the outright victor of last week’s presidential poll, comes as a Harare court postponed until Tuesday his party’s legal bid to force the official declaration of the poll results.

The ruling Zanu-PF says there is no clear winner and has endorsed President Robert Mugabe to run a possible second-round vote as well as demanding a complete recount of the original vote.

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