Zimbabwe judge halts expulsion of journalist

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The Independent Online

A Zimbabwean High Court judge ordered immigration officials yesterday to halt the deportation of the Guardian journalist Andrew Meldrum.

But last night Judge Charles Hungwe and Mr Meldrum's lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, were still waiting for the authorities to produce Mr Meldrum at the Harare High Court.

His whereabouts remained unclear. Officials at Harare airport said they suspected he was being detained at a police post waiting for the next flight out of the country.

Mr Meldrum, 51, was pushed into a car by police and immigration officials earlier yesterday and taken to the airport to await deportation. Officials tried to keep him from speaking to his colleagues. But Mr Meldrum shouted: "This is not the action of a legitimate government. It is afraid of a free press. It is afraid of independent and critical reporting."

He has persistently been accused of writing "lies" about the government. He was acquitted on a charge of publishing falsehoods last year after he reproduced a story that Mr Mugabe's supporters had beheaded a woman in front of her children.

The Guardian called the deportation "a political act which should invite the strongest possible condemnation from the international community.

"The Zimbabwean authorities have been persecuting Andrew for the last 12 months and their clear determination to deport him can only be interpreted as a concerted effort to stifle any free press within the country."