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Charges against journalist dropped for lack of evidence; MISA urges police to return his equipment

(MISA/IFEX) - Mutare public prosecutor Malvern Musarurwa has declined to prosecute freelance journalist Sydney Saize, whose trial on allegations of contravening the repressive Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and Public Order and Security Act (POSA) was set to commence in the eastern border town on 22 April 2008.

Saize, who was arrested on 18 January 2006 and who spent three nights in police cells, was facing two separate charges under the AIPPA and the POSA. In the first instance, Saize was being charged for contravening the now repealed Section 83 of AIPPA, which criminalised the practice of journalism without accreditation. In the second, he was alleged to have contravened Section 15 (1) (c) of POSA by "communicating falsehoods".

The specific allegation against Saize was that, on 18 January 2006, he peddled the falsehood to Voice of America's Studio 7 that two teachers from Gomorefu Secondary School in the Marange Communal Lands had been assaulted by ZANU PF youths, war veterans and the youth militia, commonly referred to as Green Bombers. The state was held that this allegation was false, and that the two had been assaulted by "some people" after scolding a local woman.

In declining to prosecute, Musarurwa said the state did not have sufficient evidence to warrant prosecution.

Mutare Media Lawyers Network (MLN) member Cris Ndlovu, together with MISA-Zimbabwe Legal Officer Wilbert Mandinde, conducted Saize's defence.

MISA-Zimbabwe welcomes the conclusion of the case against Saize, which went unresolved for more than two years, and urges the police to return his equipment, which includes a Sony mini-disc recorder, seized when they arrested him in 2006.

Updates the Saize case:

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