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Zimbabwe high court rebukes insult-laws prosecution

Zimbabwe's highest court on Wednesday rebuked state prosecutors who have been pursuing actions against people for insulting President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. The court said that this kind of prosecution only brought more disrespect to Mugabe, who has been Zimbabwe's president since the country's independence from Britain in 1980. The justice minister was ordered to appear in court November 20 to advocate for freedom of expression and its protection by continued enforcement under a new constitution [text] that was signed into law [JURIST report] in May. Zimbabwe visual artist Owen Maseko also challenged the insult laws on Wednesday.

Last month Egyptian authorities ordered deposed president Mohamed Morsi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] to jail for four days pending investigations regarding Morsi's alleged insult to judicial authority. In April the Istanbul 19th criminal court convicted [JURIST report] well-known Turkish pianist Fazil Say [personal website] for insulting Islam and inciting hatred. Say was given a suspended 10-month sentence [Hurriyet Daily News report]. In March a Thai court sentenced 37-year-old Akachai Hongkangwan to three years and four months in prison for violating Thailand's lese majeste law. The lese majeste law found in Article 112 of Thailand's Penal Code [text] allows for anyone who "defames, insults or threatens" a member of the royal family to be sentenced to a prison term of three to 15 years. Also in March Oman's Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al-Said's [official website, in Arabic] pardoned [JURIST report] all activists and writers convicted in 2012 for insulting the ruler, information technology crimes and taking part in unauthorized protests.

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