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Zimbabwe farmers ruling delayed

HARARE, Zimbabwe -- The High Court in Zimbabwe has postponed a ruling on a bail application by 21 jailed white farmers charged with inciting public violence.

The farmers were due to have been told on Friday whether they could return to their farms in the Chinhoyi district 120 kilometres (70 miles) north of Harare in the north of the country.

But the High Court judge Rita Makarau said she needed more time to prepare her judgement, a lawyer for the defence told Reuters. The ruling is now due to be made on Monday.

The farmers have shaved their heads in protest at the decision.

The lawyer, Lawrence Chibwe, said: "She said she wanted to make a reasoned judgement and had realised she'd needed more time to prepare it.''

The farmers were arrested on August 6 for allegedly assaulting supporters of President Robert Mugabe on a white-owned farm.

Retaliatory attacks were made by so-called war veterans on the farms of whites for a week afterwards, looting and destroying property and forcing families to flee before police intervened.

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State prosecutors have argued that the release of the farmers would trigger more violence in Chinhoyi, where they are detained, but the defence said such an argument was an admission that law and order had broken down.

The state prosecutor has also argued that the farmers were likely to interfere with state witnesses if released on bail.

In a separate legal move on Thursday, four journalists from Zimbabwe's only independent newspaper, The Daily News, are facing new charges of subversion a day after they were arrested and released on similar charges.

Among the four are editor-in-chief Geoffrey Nyarota and three senior colleagues.

They face new charges over a story alleging police involvement in farm lootings.

In an article published on Tuesday, The Daily News reported that police vehicles were used by ruling party militants in "well orchestrated acts of lawlessness" on the farms.

Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena has insisted the vehicles were only used to recover stolen property.

They had earlier faced charges of printing false information likely to discredit the police or military over an article covering a week of violence in the Chinhoyi corn and tobacco district.

Thirty farms had been looted and white families evacuated from about 100 farms during the trouble.

Hours before the new charges were made, Nyarota told CNN his arrest on Tuesday was "part of the ongoing harassment of Zimbabwe's journalists."

Anticipating his second arrest he said he expected the authorities "to have another go."

If found guilty the charge carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.

Nyarota has for some time been a thorn in the side of President Robert Mugabe's government.

In the last couple of years his paper has published wide-ranging allegations of corruption and mismanagement against Mugabe and his ministers.

In April, Nyarota and two of his reporters were questioned and charged with defaming Mugabe, while last August he alleged that a plot by the state Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) to kill him had only failed when the hired assassin lost his nerve and revealed the details to his intended victim.

In January, a bomb destroyed the paper's printing press in what the Daily News said was a politically motivated attack.

• Zimbabwe government
• Daily News

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