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Arrested Zimbabwe Journalist Remanded in Custody Despite COVID-19 Fears

FILE - Zimbabwe journalist Hopewell Chino'ono, speaks to state media in Harare, Oct. 10, 2018. (AP)

Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chin’ono was today remanded in custody by a Harare magistrate on allegations of publishing falsehoods despite indications from his attorneys that he may be infected with COVID-19.

Magistrate Lazini Ncube ordered Chin’ono to appear in court on Monday and be sent to remand prison where he will be in isolated from other inmates.

His attorneys - Harrison Nkomo and Paidamoyo Saurombe - told the court that Chin’ono should not be put on remand as what he faces are trivial charges.

Prosecutor Faith Nyamutowa told the court that Chin’ono posted a tweet that falsely reported the death of a child following a physical assault by the police.

Chin’ono allegedly breached Section 31 (a) (iii) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

A video circulating on social media shows a woman carrying a lifeless body of a child holding onto a policeman demanding justice with some people also urging others to take action against the law enforcement agent.

Chin’ono was first arrested for posting a tweet noting that some Zimbabweans were expected to stage anti-corruption public protests in July last year.

If convicted of publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the state, Chin’ono could face up to 20 years in prison and a fine, according to Section 31 of Zimbabwe’s Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.