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Former US rep. says he is in hiding in South Africa

Former US congressman Mel Reynolds lost his Illinois seat in 1995 after a statutory rape conviction.

Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP

Former US congressman Mel Reynolds lost his Illinois seat in 1995 after a statutory rape conviction.

JOHANNESBURG — Mel Reynolds, a former US representative, said Tuesday that he is in hiding in South Africa after being deported from Zimbabwe because he fears for his life for threatening to expose allegedly illegal business dealings between US businessmen and the southern African country.

Zimbabwe’s deputy minister of information, Supa Mandiwanzira, dismissed the claims as untrue and ‘‘capricious.’’

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Reynolds, who lost his Illinois congressional seat in 1995 after being convicted of statutory rape, was arrested in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, on Feb. 16 and pleaded guilty to charges of violating the country’s immigration laws. After a few days in prison, he was fined and deported. The court dismissed charges of possessing pornography on a technicality.

Reynolds had gained prominence in Zimbabwe for reportedly attracting investment for the construction of a Hilton hotel and office complex in Harare, according to a government-run newspaper.

Reynolds accused President Robert Mugabe’s regime of ‘‘trumping up’’ pornography charges to discredit him.

The United States has sanctions preventing Mugabe and top members of his government from traveling to or having financial holdings in the United States.

Reynolds said that he believes he is being pursued by a secret Zimbabwean death squad because he said he threatened to disclose information on US businessmen who are doing business illegally with Zimbabwe, involving ‘‘blood diamonds.’’

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