14 April 2005

Zimbabwe: British Scribes Granted Bail

Harare — THE two British journalists, charged with breaching sections of the Immigration Act and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, were yesterday each released on $1 million bail by a Norton magistrate.

The two Sunday Telegraph correspondents Julian Simmonds (45) and Tobby Harden (35) had been in custody since last week.

Yesterday their lawyer Ms Beatrice Mtetwa of Kantor and Immerman requested the court to release the pair because the State had failed to file a notice of appeal against the court's decision to release them on bail.

Magistrate Mr Never Diza concurred with the defence that the State had done nothing within seven days as required by law besides simply indicating the intention to contest granting the pair bail.

The two were last week each granted $1 million bail and ordered to surrender their passports and to stay at the British Embassy until the matter was finalised.

Mr Diza said the Immigration Department could not complain over their release stating that it was up to them to give the pair a temporary permit of residence in the country.

"I refer to a case of Cox versus the Immigration Office and another - naturally once accused had been admitted on bail in respect of a charge of this nature and it is clear that the seven days have expired with no support that something (filing appeal) is being done. Court has no option but to grant (bail) on conditions as already granted by this court," said Mr Diza.

Before the two were released on bail, Ms Mtetwa had applied for the journalists' discharge at the close of the State case.

She argued that nine State witnesses who testified were not credible alleging that they gave nine different versions of how the journalists committed the alleged crimes.

"There is no evidence that accused committed the offence. No evidence to prove essential element under Section 83 (of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act) must show that there was intention to practice as a journalist without accreditation which as in this case the State has not done.

"We have nine different versions of the case and the State outline gives the tenth version which had not been supported by State witnesses," said Ms Mtetwa.

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