Chin’ono talks to his lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa in court on Monday, 9 November 2020. (Photo: Frank Chikowore)

Freelance journalist and filmmaker Hopewell Chin’ono was denied bail on Thursday after his arrest last week on charges of obstruction of justice.

Magistrate Marehwanazvo Gofa ruled that Chin’ono should stay in prison custody while awaiting trial because “the accused person has a propensity to commit offences”.

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The 47-year-old is accused of attempting to “defeat the course of justice” after he posted comments on Twitter critical of the National Prosecuting Authority, which was already prosecuting him in a separate case from July when he was charged with inciting violent anti-government protests.

Chin’ono has denied the latest charges, saying he is being persecuted for exposing corruption in government.

“The court is inclined to believe the state’s submissions that he has a propensity to continue committing offences as he committed this offence with another matter pending before the courts,” Gofa ruled.

“In this case, accused is denied bail and has to remain in custody until trial commences.”

His lawyer Doug Coltart said they will appeal the ruling at the High Court, which previously granted Chin’ono bail after a month of detention.

“We disagree with the ruling and we are filing an appeal to the High Court. He does not have any previous convictions. Our constitution guarantees the presumption of innocence,” said Coltart.

The arrest of Chin’ono and dozens of activists in the last four months has led to accusations that the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa is persecuting the opposition, a charge the authorities deny.

Chin’ono, who uses social media posts to criticise the government, was first arrested on July 20 on charges of inciting violent anti-government protests.

Journalist unions and embassies of the United States, the European Union and Britain have criticised the arrest of Chin’ono, who will stand trial on the incitement charges from December 7 to 9.