A Harare court has freed a journalist who was facing charges of practising without accreditation, reports Torby Muturikwa.

Magistrate Stanley Chimedza dismissed the state’s case against Gift Phiri, who works for the UK-based The Zimbabwean after the state conceded it had no concrete legal grounds.  "We concede that we did not make any prima facie case," was all the prosecutor said in response.

Phiri, who was arrested and severely assaulted by police in April, was facing charges of contravening section 79(1) of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa), which requires journalists to be accredited.  Had he been convicted, the journalist faced a fine or a two-year jail term or both.

Phiri’s lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, applied for acquittal at the close of the state case.  Sergeant Tapera Ranjisi had finished giving his evidence and the state had indicated that it would not call any further witnesses.

Ranjisi told the court that the police had received information that Phiri was practicing journalism without accreditation.

Under cross-examination by Mtetwa, Ranjisi conceded that police searched Phiri's home without a search warrant.   He denied participating in Phiri’s torture. He, however, admitted that the police had not conducted any investigations following reports that Phiri had been tortured while in custody as ordered by the court on 5 April 2007.

In her application, Mtetwa argued that the court had failed to prove that Phiri had in fact practiced journalism. Phiri was allegedly severely assaulted by the police while in custody following his arrest in Harare on 1 April 2007.