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Human rights defender Hopewell Chin’ono detained and charged

Status: 
Released on bail
About the situation

On 2 September 2020, human rights defender Hopewell Chin'ono was granted bail by the Harare High Court and released from Chikurubi Prison, where he had been detained since 7 August, following his arrest on 20 July. He is charged with “incitement to commit public violence”.

On 20 July 2020, human rights defender and journalist Hopewell Chin’ono was arbitrarily arrested at his home in Harare and charged with ‘incitement to commit public violence’. He remains in detention at Harare Central police station.

About Hopewell Chin'ono

Hopewell Chin'onoHopewell Chin’ono is an investigative journalist and human rights defender. His work primarily focuses on investigating and exposing corruption and the mismanagement of the economic crisis in Zimbabwe. In June 2020, the defender exposed an alleged case of corruption involving the former Ministry of Health for awarding contracts to pharmaceutical companies selling COVID-19 medical supplies at inflated prices.

4 September 2020
Human rights defender Hopewell Chin'ono released on bail

On 2 September 2020, human rights defender Hopewell Chin'ono was granted bail by the Harare High Court and released from Chikurubi Prison, where he had been detained since 7 August, following his arrest on 20 July. He is charged with “incitement to commit public violence”.

Hopewell Chin’ono is an investigative journalist and human rights defender. His work primarily focuses on investigating and exposing corruption and the mismanagement of the economic crisis in Zimbabwe. In June 2020, the defender exposed an alleged case of corruption involving the former Ministry of Health for awarding contracts to pharmaceutical companies selling COVID-19 medical supplies at inflated prices.

On 20 July 2020, Hopewell Chin'ono was arbitrarily arrested by police officers, detained in Harare Remand Prison and charged with ‘incitement to commit public violence’. The charges against the human rights defender are in relation to posts he made on social media, calling on citizens to participate in the anti-corruption demonstrations that took place on 31 July around the country. Authorities and the investigating officer on the case claimed that the posts incited people to participate in gatherings that would promote a breach of the peace, and that the aim of these demonstrations was to overthrow the Government of Zimbabwe. However, the aim of the protests was to denounce corruption, mismanagement of the economic crisis and the lack of reforms by the government.

On 7 August 2020, Hopewell Chin'ono was transfered to Chikurubi prison, a maximum security prison in Harare.

Since 30 August, the human rights defender has been feeling ill and despite presenting symtoms consistent with covid-19, he was not isolated from other prisoners. On 2 September 2020, police authorities reportedly told Hopewell Chin'ono that he would see a private doctor, but in fact they brought him to the High Court of Harare, although the defender's doctor specified that he should not attend court in his condition.

The request for provisional release of the human rights defender was denied three times before his lawyer appealed to the High Court of Harare. On 2 September 2020, Hopewell Chin'ono was released on bail, with conditions attached to the bail including the prohibition to post on his Twitter account or to create any other Twitter account to incite the holding of mass demonstrations. The human rights defender was also required to surrender his passport and the title deeds to a property he owns, to reside at his given address and to report to Highlands police station every Monday and Friday.

Hopewell Chin'ono must appear in court on 14 September 2020 for the remand hearing and should be notified of the trial date at that time.

While Front Line Defenders welcomes the release on bail of Hopewell Chin'ono, it remains concerned by the charges brought against him, which are believed to be solely motivated by his legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights. Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Zimbabwe to drop all charges against Hopewell Chin'ono, cease all judicial harassment against him and guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in the country are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.

10 August 2020
Human rights defender Hopewell Chin’ono detained and charged

On 20 July 2020, human rights defender and journalist Hopewell Chin’ono was arbitrarily arrested at his home in Harare and charged with ‘incitement to commit public violence’. He remains in detention at Harare Central police station.

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Hopewell Chin’ono is an investigative journalist and human rights defender. His work primarily focuses on investigating and exposing corruption and the mismanagement of the economic crisis in Zimbabwe. In June 2020, the defender exposed an alleged case of corruption involving the former Ministry of Health for awarding contracts to pharmaceutical companies selling COVID-19 medical supplies at inflated prices.

On 20 July 2020, police officers forcibly entered the defender’s home and arrested him, despite not posessing an arrest warrant against him. Hopewell Chin’ono was detained in Harare Central police station and charged with ‘incitement to commit public violence’, and his request for provisional release was denied on 24 July 2020. His hearing at the High Court of Harare was first scheduled for 7 August, however it has since been postponed to 12 August.

The charges against Hopewell Chin’ono are in relation to posts he made on social media, calling on citizens to participate in the anti-corruption demonstrations that took place on 31 July around the country. Authorities and the investigating officer on the case claimed that the posts incited people to participate in gatherings that would promote a breach of the peace, and that the aim of these demonstrations was to overthrow the Government of Zimbabwe. The aim of the protests however, was to denounce corruption, mismanagement of the economic crisis and the lack of reforms by the government.

The defender believes he has been targeted in reprisal for his investigation and reporting on the alleged case of government corruption involving COVID-19 medical supplies in June 2020. The Minister was dismissed from his role and arrested as a result of the scandal.

Front Line Defenders is seriously concerned by the arbitrary detention of Hopewell Chin’ono and the charges brought against him, as it believes he has been targeted solely for his peaceful and legitimate human rights activities.

Front Line Defenders also expresses concern regarding the crackdown on peaceful demonstrations against corruption and the repression of human rights defenders in Zimbabwe, through arbitrary arrests and detentions, fabricated charges and alledged abductions. Front Line Defenders condemns the ongoing human rights violations, and recognises them as part of an effort to suppress dissenting voices, specifically human rights defenders critical of the government, prevalent corruption, the economic crisis and the lack of reforms in Zimbabwe.