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Former US Congressman Pleads Not Guilty in Zimbabwe

A former U.S. congressman arrested in Zimbabwe has pleaded not guilty to charges of possessing pornography.

Mel Reynolds entered his plea in a Harare courtroom Wednesday, two days after his arrest. He is due back in court Thursday to enter a plea on a separate charge of breaking Zimbabwe's immigration laws.

Reynolds' lawyer, Arthur Gurira, told VOA that his client suffers from high blood pressure and is not doing well in prison.

"I can also confirm that he is not in the best of health at the moment. And I actually made an application to the court that he be given immediate medical attention."

A state prosecutor said that Reynolds was caught with pornographic images and videos on his mobile phone, in violation of censorship laws.

He also said Reynolds was living in the country on an expired visa and should have left Zimbabwe on December 10.

In the 1990s, Reynolds held a Chicago-area seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, and was considered a rising star in the U.S. Democratic Party. But he was forced to resign his seat in 1995 after being convicted of sexual assault, obstruction of justice and solicitation of child pornography.

While in jail in the United States, he was also convicted of bank and campaign fraud. His sentence was commuted by President Bill Clinton in 2001.

The 62-year-old Reynolds made attempts to win back his congressional seat in 2004 and 2013 but lost primary elections both times.

In Zimbabwe, he reportedly tried to attract investors for a hotel project.

The U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe has refused to comment on Reynolds' arrest.