In Zimbabwe, police have charged the editor and two employees of an independent weekly newspaper with criminal defamation. Police also locked up a magistrate and a ruling party member of parliament in separate cases.

The three journalists were charged at the Harare central police station with defaming President Robert Mugabe for reporting that he had commandeered a passenger plane from Air Zimbabwe while he was vacationing in Asia with his family.

The Independent claimed the presidential trip not only inconvenienced Air Zimbabwe passengers, but cost the hard-pressed airline a substantial sum.

The editor of the weekly Independent newspaper, Iden Wetherell, news editor Vincent Kahiya and reporter Dumisani Muleya are expected to appear in court Monday.

Their lawyer, Linda Cook, says the three journalists deny the charges.

The three were arrested Saturday, after the information minister, Jonathan Moyo, said their article had defamed Mr. Mugabe.

In the deepening crisis in Zimbabwe's financial sector, police also arrested a ruling ZANU-PF member of parliament, Philip Chiangwa.

He is accused of obstructing justice in connection with the fraud trial of three directors of a financial management company. He allegedly intervened to try to obtain bail for them.

At the same time, a lower court judge has been detained in Harare, accused of improperly granting bail to a defendant in another bank fraud case.