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Opposition leader now among those charged over his article in "The Standard"

(MISA/IFEX) - The leader of a faction of the Zimbabwe opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Arthur Guseni Oliver Mutambara, appeared in court on 3 June 2008 charged with contempt of court and communicating falsehoods prejudicial to the state. Harare Provincial Magistrate Mishrod Guvamombe is presiding over the case.

Appearing for the state, Harare area prosecutor Jonathan Murombedzi alleged that Mutambara wrote an opinion article published in "The Standard" newspaper on 20 April 2008, that was false and thus undermined public confidence in the law enforcement agents, defence forces and prison services.

Davison Maruziva, editor of "The Standard", is also facing charges for publishing the same article.

Mutambara, who was being represented by Harrison Nkomo, was granted bail of $20 billion (approx. US$28) and ordered to report to the Criminal Investigation Department's law and order section every Friday and to surrender the title deeds to his Harare, Marlborough suburb house.

He will be back in court on 17 June, when the state is expected to provide a trial date for his case.

On 5 June, Harare Magistrate Dorris Shomwe set a trial date of 17 June for the charges filed against the "The Standard" itself over the same article.

Prosecutor Teddy Kamuriwo, from the Attorney General's office, stated that the reason for setting the trial for 17 June was to enable the State to combine the case of the newspaper's editor Davison Maruziva, also charged under the same section with that of Mutambara. Kamuriwo stated that it is the state's prerogative to join the cases.

The defence lawyers objected to the joining of the cases, stating that they would have expected prior notice on the State's intentions. The defence lawyers also requested that the State present them with the State documents, which include the charge sheet, State outline and the witness statements, on or before 10 June.

The charges arise from an opinion piece written by Mutambara, "A shameful betrayal of national independence." "The Standard" newspaper is being represented by the Group Projects Editor Iden Wetherell. The police contend that the article is in contempt of court and also lampooned the security agents and President Robert Mugabe.

Updates "The Standard" case arising from Mutambara's article:

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