Internet Access Delays Court Ruling On Mtetwa Case

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By Mary Taruvinga

A HARARE magistrate has blamed lack of internet access for delay in passing ruling in a case in which prosecutors are seeking the barring of top human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa from handling journalist Hopewell Chin’ono’s case.

Ruling was postponed to next Tuesday.

Magistrate Ngoni Nduna on Friday blamed the delay in non-availability of internet services at the magistrates’ courts for research purposes.

The magistrate wants access to the internet to research on submissions made by the defence and State.

Prosecutor Whisper Mabhaudhi had made an application seeking the court to bar Mtetwa from representing Chin’ono.

He is accusing her of posting details of the court proceedings on her Facebook page; “Lorie Conway’s Page about the film Beatrice Mtetwa and the Rule of Law.”

Mabhaudhi claims the Facebook page belongs to Mtetwa, but the defence lawyer argued she was not on the social media platform and the page in question belonged to Conway a film producer who is based in Boston, US.

“It’s not possible for someone who is not on Facebook to be interacting with the content regularly,” Mtetwa said in her defence.

“We note that the State has not given the basis of the application. If it’s based in common law, any other statute, or the CPEA (Criminal Law and Procedure) Act, then the question becomes which exactly?

“The court can only order such a removal (of Mtetwa) if the court is itself satisfied that allowing the counsel to continue would result in a conflict that would prejudice the litigant.”

The top lawyer said Chin’ono had the right to choose any lawyer to represent him.

She said the downloaded material presented by the State as evidence, showed it was from the Facebook page fully controlled by Conway.

Mtetwa said by barring her from representing her client was the same as stripping Chin’ono of his Constitutional rights.

Magistrate Nduna’s ruling will pave way for Chin’ono’s bail application.

The journalist is facing charges of inciting public violence by urging citizens to participate in demonstrations against the government. Chin’ono was arrested on July 20.

Meanwhile, the court case was delayed by over four hours after prison officials drove Chin’ono to the High Court where they kept him in holding cells for no reason.

Mtetwa said the move was an unnecessary delaying tactic by the State.

“This was an unnecessary delaying tactic to ensure that he (Chin’ono) remains behind bars as long as possible,” she told the court.

Magistrate Nduna said the complaint had been placed on record and prison officials will be held accountable if it emerged they took Chin’ono to the High Court without any supporting documents.