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Zimbabwe Official Summoned to Court

February 25, 1999

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) _ A judge ordered Zimbabwe’s defense minister and two other senior officials to appear in court to face contempt charges, a newspaper reported Thursday.

The move threatens to widen a rift between President Robert Mugabe and the nation’s judiciary.

Defense Minister Moven Mahachi, Defense Secretary Job Whabira and chief of military police Maj. Fidelis Mhonda must appear before a High Court judge on Friday, the independent Financial Gazette reported.

The contempt of court charges stem from the military’s failure last month to obey two High Court orders to release detained journalist Mark Chavunduka.

Chavunduka, the editor of the independent Standard newspaper, was arrested after his weekly paper reported on an alleged coup plot. The government said the report was false.

Chavunduka and Standard reporter Ray Choto, who was also detained, were allegedly tortured by military police before being released.

Earlier this month, Mugabe challenged four judges to resign after they protested the illegal detention of the journalists and alleged abuse of the law by state officials. The judges have refused to quit.

The United States, Britain and other Western nations have criticized the arrests of Chavunduka, Choto and four other journalists this year.

On Wednesday, the 14 nations of the European Union said they simultaneously summoned Zimbabwean diplomats to their foreign ministries to protest alleged abuses of human rights.

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