Immigration charges dropped by state because of lack of evidence

HARARE - A magistrate in Harare has released a lawyer for detained British mercenary Simon Mann, pictured, as a clampdown on Zimbabwe's legal profession deepens, newspaper reports said yesterday.

HARARE - A magistrate in Harare has released a lawyer for detained British mercenary Simon Mann, pictured, as a clampdown on Zimbabwe's legal profession deepens, newspaper reports said yesterday.

Jonathan Samkange was arrested at his home in Harare's plush Avondale suburb on Monday night on immigration charges, said the Herald.

He was released on Tuesday when the state dropped the case because of a lack of evidence.

Samkange had been defending Mann on charges of planning a coup in Equatorial Guinea.

He is currently fighting Equatorial Guinea's request to extradite Mann to the sub-Saharan country.

Samkange's arrest comes less than a week after four lawyers, including the president of the Zimbabwe Law Society and an 80-year-old woman, were beaten by police for trying to protest the arrest of two colleagues who were detained while defending members of the Movement of Democratic Change.

The Herald reported that Samkange had been detained because he allegedly asked Zimbabwean immigration authorities to grant a visa to a friend, Puye Chicampo Weja, from Equatorial Guinea.

It transpired that the visa was required for a defence witness in the Mann case, the newspaper claimed.

Immigration officials said they were "horrified" when they discovered Weja was not Samkange's friend, and asked the police to prosecute the lawyer. - Sapa-DPA

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