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Retired White Judge Arrested in Zimbabwe on Charges of Violating Court Rules - 2002-09-13

In Zimbabwe, a retired white judge was arrested before dawn Friday. The state press says former High Court Judge Fergus Blackie violated court rules when he upheld the appeal of a white woman who had been convicted of theft.

Lawyers for Judge Blackie say he was arrested early this morning, but the police refuse to confirm the arrest. His lawyers say they are unable to issue a statement on the charges against him, since they have been unable to find him.

On Friday, the state-controlled Herald newspaper quoted the chief justice, the judge president and the judge who, with Judge Blackie, heard the woman's appeal of her theft conviction. They said Mr. Blackie had flouted procedures by passing a judgment without the approval of the judge who heard the appeal with him.

Judge Blackie's ruling upholding the woman's appeal was one of his last decisions before he retired.

His last act as a judge was to convict Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa on two charges of contempt of court, sentencing him to an effective three months in jail and a fine.

Another court later suspended Mr. Chinamsa's sentence.

The state media have repeatedly labeled Judge Blackie a racist and accused him of favoring accused people who are white. The former judge has refused to respond to any of the accusations.

His detention marks the first time a judge has been arrested in Zimbabwe's history.