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American Reporter Receives Deportation Order From Zimbabwe - 2003-05-16

American reporter Andrew Meldrum, a veteran correspondent for Britain's Guardian newspaper, received a deportation order from Zimbabwe Friday. Immediately after he was informed of his deportation the High Court issued an order to allow him to appeal.

Andrew Meldrum was forced into a police car when he emerged from the Department of Immigration, Friday. Before he was shoved down into a passenger seat he said at the top of his voice that the Zimbabwe government could not tolerate criticism. He said the actions of the government were a blow to press freedom in Zimbabwe.

In the custody of at least four policemen, Mr. Meldrum was then taken, against his will, to an unknown destination, believed to be Harare International Airport.

Meanwhile lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa applied for and was granted an urgent hearing in the nearby High Court to fight the deportation order.

Ms. Mtetwa delivered copies of the court papers to the Immigration Department in central Harare and then went at high speed to the airport and served them on members of the national carrier Air Zimbabwe.

Mr. Meldrum's wife Dolores, hoping to speak to her husband, was refused permission to see him. Mr. Meldrum's cellular telephone was turned off. American diplomats were also denied access to Mr. Meldrum at the airport where he was believed to be held.

The lawyer says the police will be in contempt of the High Court order if they do not return Mr. Meldrum to the court.

Andrew Meldrum is a permanent resident of Zimbabwe and according to the constitution has the same rights as citizens.

His employer, London's Guardian newspaper, says he has been persecuted and harrassed by the Zimbabwe government for the last year.

Government newspapers have accused Mr. Meldrum of being biased against the government of President Robert Mugabe. The newspapers even accused him of being a terrorist and a spy. Mr. Mugabe frequently blames Britain for causing Zimbabwe's problems.

Mr. Meldrum was the last remaining foreign citizen working as a journalist in Zimbabwe.