JOURNALIST Hopewell Chin’ono is likely to be jailed for 20 years if convicted for communicating falsehoods, a Harare magistrate heard yesterday.
This was revealed by an investigating officer from the CID Harare Law and Order section, Lovemore Marwisa, while giving evidence before magistrate Lazini Ncube, where he argued that the accused was not eligible for bail because he was likely to abscond considering the possible penalty for the offence he was facing.
“We have overwhelming evidence against the accused as we managed to retrieve the chats that he posted on his Facebook and Twitter accounts while committing the offence. We also have an affidavit prepared by the woman whose child was falsely reported to be dead,” Marwisa said.
“The accused is facing a level 14 offence, which when convicted, he is likely to be sentenced to a jail term not exceeding 20 years,” he said.
The State, represented by prosecutor Nancy Chandakaona, opposed the granting of bail on the basis that he was facing a serious offence, hence was likely to abscond if granted bail.
This was after Ncube had dismissed his application to challenge placement on remand.
Chin’ono, MDC Alliance deputy chairperson Job Sikhala and the MDC Alliance spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere, who are facing a similar charge of publishing falsehoods, argued in court that section 31(a)(iii) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, which they were being charged under, was actually a “non-existent” law.
But Ncube ruled that there were only minor amendments to that law, which involved a few words. The magistrate insisted that the whole section was still in existence.
Chin’ono allegedly posted falsehoods on Twitter to the effect that a police officer had killed a baby with a truncheon. This was after a video of the incident went viral on social media.
Police, however, dismissed the reports, saying the child was alive and that both the mother and the child had not sustained any injuries following the scuffle with a Harare police officer.
The police, however, did not publish the identity of the woman.
Chin’ono’s lawyer Harrison Nkomo said his client was not likely to abscond since he had already surrendered his passport to the State as part of his bail conditions on other pending cases.
Chin’ono also stands accused of inciting public violence and obstructing or defeating the course of justice.
He was denied bail at the magistrates’ court on both charges, but was later granted bail at the High Court after several attempts.
Through his lawyers, Chin’ono complained that the prison officers were defying court orders after they failed to isolate him from other inmates although he was a COVID-19 suspect.
The prison officers were also said to have defied a court order to the effect that Chin’ono must not be brought to court in leg irons.
A prison officer told the court that his superiors were demanding a written court order so as to comply with the directives.