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Zimbabwe High Court Judge Released on Bail - 2003-02-18

In Zimbabwe, High Court Judge Benjamin Parada has been released on bail, one day after his arrest on charges of obstructing the course of justice. Before being released, Judge Paradza had to pay US$545 in bail and surrender his passport.

Judge Paradza is the first sitting judge in Zimbabwe's history to be arrested and charged with corruption.

He is accused of trying to influence his fellow judges to rule in favor of his friend and partner in a safari business, Russell Luschagne, who is charged with murder.

The judge is accused of telephoning three judges in Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo, and asking them to release Mr. Luschagne's passport to allow him to travel overseas to market their hunting and safari business. Mr. Luschagne's French passport is being held by the government before his trial.

The prosecution told the court that Judge Paradza informed one of his colleagues that if Mr. Luschagne's passport were not released, he, Judge Paradza, would lose US$60,000.

Judge Paradza's lawyer, Jonathan Samkange, says his client denies the charges against him. The lawyer dismissed them as "pure harassment."

Last month, Judge Paradza displeased government supporters by ordering the release of the opposition mayor of Harare, Elias Mudzuri, who had been arrested for holding a meeting without police permission.

Constitutional expert Pearson Nherere said that under Zimbabwe's constitution judges accused of misdeeds should not be arrested, but should first be brought before a tribunal appointed by the chief justice.

After his release, Judge Paradza said he intended to return to work. He described his night in a police cell as uncomfortable. He said he shared a cell meant for six people with 14 others.