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Senior Zimbabwe Journalist Arrested - 2004-01-10

One of Zimbabwe's most senior journalists was arrested Saturday and accused by officials of defaming President Robert Mugabe.

The editor of the weekly newspaper, Zimbabwe Independent, Iden Wetherall, was arrested Saturday, after his paper published a frontpage report saying that Mr. Mugabe had diverted an Air Zimbabwe aircraft from its normal route this week, to fly him around Indonesia and Malaysia.

Quoting unnamed Air Zimbabwe sources, the newspaper said the presidential trip had inconvenienced many passengers, and caused the struggling national carrier substantial financial loss.

Mr. Wetherall was arrested shortly after Information Mnister Jonathan Moyo accused him of publishing a falsehood and insulting the president.

Mr. Wetherall was taken by detectives to Harare Central police station. His lawyer, Linda Cook, said police said he would be charged with criminal defamation.

Also on Saturday, police refused to allow staff of The Daily News to enter the plant.

On Friday the country's only independent daily newspaper won yet another court decision ordering police to allow the newspaper to resume operations. It has been banned since September.

The state-controlled newspaper, the Herald, quoted officials as saying they planned to appeal the high court order and, in turn,Daily News executives said they will charge the police with contempt of court.