A High Court judge has told police to allow Zimbabwe's only independent daily newspaper to publish, in keeping with previous court orders. The management of The Daily News is preparing a small edition for publication if the police obey the judge's order.

The state's lawyer, Fatima Maxwell, told the High Court that she had no argument to oppose the application brought by the owners of The Daily News. The newspaper asked the court to order police to let its staff resume work, as allowed by previous court orders.

The police produced affidavits saying they had prevented The Daily News from publishing on the orders of the chairman of Zimbabwe's media and information commission, Tafataona Mahoso.

This meant, according to the Daily News' lawyer, that police were prepared to obey the commission chairman rather than the court orders.

In December, another court gave The Daily News autorization to resume publication. But police defied the order, surrounding the newspaper's city center offices and its printing press and chasing away workers.

The Daily News was banned from publishing in September, because the Media and Information Commission refused to grant it a license. The newspaper had previously been publishing without a license, claiming the new law requiring licenses was unconstitutional. It applied for a license only when a court said it could not challenge the law unless it first complied with it.

Since then The Daily News, which is critical of President Robert Mugabe and his administration, has fought a constant legal battle to regain its right to publish. It won favorable rulings twice before, but the police defied the rulings.

The legal adviser to The Daily News, Gugulethu Moyo, said Friday she was not optimistic that the police would obey this new court order. But she said journalists and managers are preparing to produce a small edition in the next few days in case they are allowed to do so.