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Journalist arrested at church

(MISA/IFEX) - Freelance journalist and writer Peter Godwin was on 25 May 2008 arrested at the Anglican Christ Church in the suburb of Borrowdale in Zimbabwe's capital Harare. Godwin, who was accused of taking pictures without seeking permission from the priest in charge of the parish, Reverend Harry Mambo Rinashe, recently consecrated Bishop of the controversial Anglican Province of Zimbabwe, was taken to Borrowdale Police Station.

Godwin told Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights lawyer, Tafadzwa Mugabe, who spoke to him at the police station, that he was taking pictures of the graves of his parents who are buried at the church. He was later released the same day without being charged.

Godwin was arrested by police guarding Anglican churches in Zimbabwe. The Anglican Church has split into two formations in Zimbabwe with a breakaway formation led by Bishop Nolbert Kunonga and the other maintaining ties to the Church of England. Bishop Kunonga is an ardent supporter of President Robert Mugabe and a recipient of a farm under Zimbabwe's controversial land reform programme. He has solicited the support of the police to guard and bar other parishioners from using Anglican churches.

MISA's understanding from talking to the lawyer is that Godwin was targeted because of his journalistic background and suspicion that he wanted to cover the controversial story of the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe. MISA believes that had he not been a journalist, he would not have been arrested.

Godwin is an award-winning writer who has published a number of books. His publications include "Mukiwa: A white boy in Africa" and "Rhodesians Never Die: The impact of war and political change on white Rhodesia".

In an unrelated incident on 25 May 2008, police at Mabelreign Police Station in Harare denied parishioners at Holy Name Catholic Church permission to conduct a traditional procession in commemoration of Corpus Christi, which is a Catholic feast day commemorating the supreme gift of the institution by Jesus Christ of the Holy Eucharist.

Traditionally, parishioners at the church mark the day through a procession around the Mabelreign area where the church is located.

However, according to a Mr Manjoro, a leader at the church, police denied them permission to proceed with the procession.

Although religious gatherings are exempted from notification to the police in terms of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), the church's leadership always requests police escort for such processions. No reasons were offered for barring the procession.

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