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Zimbabwe drops American’s charges

HARARE, Zimbabwe — A Zimbabwean magistrate on Friday dismissed charges against Mel Reynolds, a former US representative, of possessing pornography, and he was ordered to pay a fine or face jail time after pleading guilty to charges of violating the country’s immigration laws.

The state had alleged Reynolds had images of naked men and women on his iPhone. The court, however, said it had to dismiss the charge because an order for such a charge is required by the country’s prosecutor-general and it was not properly obtained.

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Reynolds must pay $100 or spend five days in prison for failing to renew his visa after it expired on Dec. 10, said Harare magistrate Tendai Mahwe.

“Once the accused has paid his fine or spent time in prison, he must be handed over to the immigration officials for immediate deportation,” the magistrate said.

Reynolds, 62, who lost his congressional seat in 1995 after being convicted of statutory rape, was arrested at a hotel in the Zimbabwean capital on Monday.

During proceedings earlier Friday, lawyer Arthur Gurira said Reynolds had not renewed his visa because he had a mild stroke in early January and “wasn’t in the best of health.”

Gurira described Reynolds as a “business consultant” who is in Zimbabwe for business purposes.

“He has been a frequent visitor since 2009, and in and out of the country for 17 times and on all those occasions, he didn’t overstay and was in strict compliance of the immigration laws in this country” Gurira told the court.

He also appealed to the court to treat Reynolds as a first offender who has never committed any crime in Zimbabwe.

US Embassy officials attended the proceedings Friday and brought Reynolds some food. They declined to speak to the media, citing privacy issues.

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