Jailed Zimbabwean journalist has virus symptoms, says lawyer

International

Zimbabwe Journalist Hopwell Chin’ono is seen through the window of a prison truck upon his arrival at the magistrates courts for his bail ruling in Harare, Monday, Aug, 24, 2020. A magistrate has denied bail to Chin’ono saying that they are no new circumstances to warrant bail for the freelance journalist who has been in custody for over a month. Chin’ono is accused of mobilizing anti government protests and is among more than 100 100 government critics who have been arrested in recent months ,according to human rights groups.(AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — A Zimbabwean journalist in jail for more than a month is “seriously ill” and exhibiting symptoms “consistent with COVID-19,” one of his lawyers said, but prison authorities claim the journalist “is well.”

Journalist Hopewell Chin’ono looked “visibly ill,” according to Doug Coltart, a lawyer who visited the reporter in jail Monday.

A private doctor who later assessed the scribe noted that Chin’ono was suffering from “a headache, fever and distorted taste. It’s consistent with COVID-19,” said Coltart.

“Tests were done and we are waiting for the results. Fears of COVID-19 are real because people have been testing positive for the virus in jail. It is overcrowded and the personal protective equipment is not enough,” Coltart said Tuesday.

Chin’ono has been in detention for more than a month after he was arrested together with opposition politician, Jacob Ngarivhume, and accused of inciting violence for publishing on social media his support for an anti-government protest. That protest was foiled by the military and police on July 31.

The duo’s lawyers have previously told the courts that they fear for their clients’ safety as overcrowding, poor diet and lack of protective equipment put their health at risk.

Chin’ono and Ngarivhume return to court for a bail ruling Wednesday, having already been denied bail three times. Journalist organizations, western embassies and human rights groups say Chin’ono is being punished for exposing government corruption on Twitter.

Chin’ono had exposed alleged corruption involving a $60 million purchase of protective equipment for health workers. Chin’ono’s reports led President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government to fire the health minister, who has been formally charged with corruption.

A prisons’ spokeswoman told the state-run Herald that reports of Chin’ono’s illness had taken them by “surprise.”

“As far as we are concerned, he is well,” the Herald on Tuesday quoted prisons spokeswoman Meya Khanyezi as saying.

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