The Zimbabwe High Court has ordered the reopening of the country's only independent newspaper, the Daily Newsfinding its closure earlier this month illegal. The court also ordered the police to return office equipment seized from the paper.

Judge Yunus Ormejee ruled that the police have no legal right to prevent the newspaper publisher and its employees from gaining access to their premises and continuing to publish the Daily News. He ordered the police to return the company's property, seized following the closure.

An ecstatic Sam Siphepha Nkomo, the chief executive officer of the publisher, the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe, hailed the court's decision as a triumph of justice, and said his paper would be back on the streets as soon as Friday.

"I am expecting that we should be back tomorrow morning," he said. "We do not have our equipment. They ripped it off vindictively and sadistically, but we are going to try and get around that problem by asking those with the facilities to help produce something tomorrow."

Associated Newspapers had defied a provision of the country's mass media law requiring newspapers and journalists to register with the government as a condition of doing business. The publisher filed a lawsuit, arguing the law is unconstitutional.

But the Supreme Court ruled the newspaper could not challenge the media law, unless it registered first. The police moved in last Friday, ordered the staff out and removed the company's office equipment.

The closure of Daily News - the most popular newspaper in Zimbabwe - sparked public protest. On Wednesday, the police arrested more than 100 people who staged a peaceful march to protest the closure. Most were released after paying a fine.