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Freelance journalist Frank Chikowore released on bail, still faces charges

(MISA/IFEX) - On 2 May 2008, High Court Judge Justice Ben Hlatshwayo granted freelance journalist Frank Chikowore bail, together with co-accused, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) director of information Luke Tamborinyoka, both charged with public violence.

Chikowore and his co-accused were each granted Z$5 billion bail (approx. US$167,000) and ordered to report to the Harare Central Police's Law and Order Section twice weekly, on Mondays and Thursdays.

Justice Hlatshwayo, who questioned the state on whether the prosecution had taken all the necessary steps to establish links of the accused to the commissioning of the alleged offence, said the state could, however, still do so during their trial.

The charge arises from the torching of a bus in Harare's suburb of Warren Park on 15 April 2008.

The judge noted the seriousness of the offence in question but said that, in denying the accused bail, the state should have established a prima facie case against them. This could have been done by gathering all the necessary evidence linking the accused to the commissioning of the offence. "It appears that was not done, and that should have been the easiest of cases for the police," said the judge.

Justice Hlatshwayo refused the state's request for the matter to be postponed to 6 May, saying the police seemed to be playing "hide and seek" where it concerned the production of the relevant affidavit as evidence that the accused commissioned the alleged offence, to justify refusal of bail.

Defence lawyer Alec Muchadehama said that, while the driver of the bus in question is said to have made a report to the police, the police had not produced a statement to the effect that the bus had been burnt. Muchadehama said they had asked the police to produce the statement in question, or that of the conductor to corroborate the driver's statement, but had failed to do so. The police had also failed to produce statements from the passengers who were traveling on the bus.

"That information is being hidden from us because it does not favour what is being advanced by the state. The lack of specifics (from the state) is because they do not have any proper evidence and this therefore calls for the granting of bail," said Muchadehama.

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