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Tuesday, 18 February, 2003, 15:21 GMT
Zimbabwe judge free on bail
Mugabe has accused the judiciary of bias
A Zimbabwean High Court judge arrested for allegedly obstructing the course of justice has been released on bail.

[Justice Paradza] was embarrassing the government with his judgments

Paradza's lawyer
Justice Benjamin Paradza, who has made several rulings defying the authorities, is accused of trying to influence another judge in a murder case involving an acquaintance of his.

Police say the case is "purely criminal" - but Justice Paradza's lawyer insists it is politically motivated.

He was released on bail of 30,000 Zimbabwe dollars (US$545) and had to surrender his passport. He was not asked to enter a plea.

Justice Paradza, 45, last month handled the case against Harare mayor Elias Mudzuri, who had been arrested for holding a meeting without police approval.

The judge said police failed to produce enough evidence and ordered the release of Mr Mudzuri, who is a member of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

Anti-government judgements
January 2003: Harare mayor freed
July 2002: Justice minister sentenced to three months in jail
July 2002: Journalist acquitted in media test case
January 2001: Presidential ban on election challenges declared illegal
September 2000: ZBC monopoly declared illegal
2000: Land reform programme declared illegal
1990s: Econet allowed to set up mobile phone network
Last year, he also ordered the release of opposition supporters abducted by "war veterans" supporting President Mugabe.

Justice Paradza - a veteran of Zimbabwe's war of independence himself - also struck down eviction notices against white farmers.

His lawyer said the judge felt he was being punished for standing up to the authorities.

"Some people have expressed their disappointment that he, as a war veteran appointed to the bench recently, was embarrassing the government with his judgments - particularly the Mudzuri one," the lawyer said.

But the police denies that the charges are political.

"This is a purely criminal case we are investigating," Assistant Police Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena said.

He is accused of asking a fellow judge to release the passport of a French business partner accused of murder.

Leaving the bench

Human rights activists have accused President Mugabe's government of undermining the rule of law and intimidating judges.

Last September, a white retired High Court judge, Fergus Blackie, was arrested and charged with obstructing justice.

Earlier, Justice Blackie had sentenced a cabinet minister to three months in jail for contempt of court.

There have been tensions between the government and the judiciary ever since judges ordered police to remove militants occupying white-owned farms in the run-up to the 2000 parliamentary elections.

Several Zimbabwean judges - including former Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay - have been forced to resign or retire early.

The government says many judges have been biased against it.


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13 Jan 03 | Africa
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