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Thursday, January 14, 1999 Published at 20:44 GMT

World: Africa

Zimbabwe army 'defies release order'

Mark Chavunduka was taken to an army base in Harare

A court in Zimbabwe has ordered the army to release from detention a newspaper editor being held in a military barracks.

However, the army has apparently refused to free the man - Mark Chavunduka, who was arrested on 12 January.

The court order was issued on the basis that military police have no jurisdiction over civilians.

The 34-year-old editor of the Standard newspaper was detained over a story alleging that there had been a military plot to topple the government of Robert Mugabe.

The newspaper's managing director, Clive Wilson, said Harare High Court ordered the military to "immediately release and refrain from any contact with Mark".

But he said they had not complied by late afternoon.

Contempt bid

Mr Wilson said that the man served with the order, Defence Ministry Permanent Secretary Job Whabira, had said: "The judge cannot direct us. We will move at our own pace."

"We are investigating him at the moment. Anyone who meddles with military matters is subject to military law," Mr Whabira was quoted as saying.

Mr Chavunduka's lawyer said he would be asking the judge to issue a contempt of court order against the Defence Ministry to ensure the newspaper editor was set free.

Human rights group Zimrights said Mr Chavunduka's detention was a "blatant abuse and violation of press freedom".

Zimbabwe Defence Minister Moven Mahachi has denied the Standard's story of a coup plot.

He says the story was the work of enemies trying to destabilise the country.

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