Tendai Rupapa Senior Court Reporter
Sunday Mail Editor Mabasa Sasa, investigations editor Brian Chitemba and reporter Tinashe Farawo, accused of publishing falsehoods, yesterday made an application challenging their placement on remand.
Their trial failed to commence last week after the State failed to furnish them with State papers to prepare for their defence and the matter was remanded to yesterday.
In their application the trio through their lawyer, argued that there was no reasonable suspicion that they committed an offence.
They submitted a written application outlining the basis of their application and indicated to the court that they would make detailed oral submissions on March 18.
“It is respectfully submitted that the arrest and remand of the accused persons is without just cause, because the State has failed to establish that it holds a reasonable suspicion that they committed an offence under section 31 of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act.
“Paragraph 5 of the State outline completely misreads the article.
“The said paragraph and the entire charge before this court assume that the article states that Assistant Commissioner of Police is being investigated by the police, the Minerals and Border Control Unit or the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. However, the article does not say that the investigations are being conducted by the three.
“Accordingly, there is no basis upon which the State can suggest that this article is false. The said investigations could have been conducted by another authority which the accused have no obligation to disclose,” reads part of their submissions.
They further added that there was nothing in the State outline or charge sheet that showed how the alleged falsehoods affect the economic interests of Zimbabwe.
“The State only relies on a bald and unsubstantiated allegations in this regard. It has no basis or evidence to meet this essential element of the offence.”
They further argued that it would be unconstitutional and in breach of the accused’s fair trial rights to allow the trial to proceed knowing that this essential element cannot be proved.
“The accused persons are entitled to be protected against this abuse of the law to guarantee against the unfounded invasion of their liberty. Accordingly, the court is enjoined to remove the accused persons from remand,” reads the application.
Harare magistrate Mr Tendai Mahwe remanded the matter to March 18. The trio is facing charges of communicating or publishing false statements prejudicial to the State and are on $100 bail each.
Sasa, Chitemba and Farawo were arrested following the publication of an article on November 1, 2015 which implicated some police officers, rangers from the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority of Zimbabwe and Asian nationals in poaching activities in Hwange.
Public prosecutor Ms Francesca Mukumbiri alleged that following the killing of 22 elephants by poachers using suspected cyanide poison, the accused published a story, “Top cop fingered in poaching saga”.
It is alleged that the trio knew that no assistant commissioner of the police was being investigated for involvement in the poaching of the elephants, nor had the Zimbabwe Republic Police made any arrest in connection with the crime.
The publication of the alleged false statement was communicated nationally and internationally, causing an outcry from the international community who support the tourism industry, the court heard.
The trio is accused of publishing falsehoods that would adversely affect the tourism industry and the economy.