Zimbabwe court orders deportation of former congressman

MacDonald Dzirutwe
Former US congressman Mel Reynolds arrives at the Harare Magistrates court
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Former U.S. congressman Mel Reynolds (C) arrives at the Harare Magistrates court, February 20, 2014. Reynolds pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges of possessing pornographic images and videos, two days after his arrest at a hotel in Zimbabwe. Reynolds, 62, a convicted sex offender in the United States, also faces charges of staying in the southern African country without a valid visa. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo (ZIMBABWE - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)

By MacDonald Dzirutwe

HARARE (Reuters) - A Zimbabwean court dismissed pornography charges against former congressman Mel Reynolds on Friday but ordered his deportation after he pleaded guilty to staying in the southern African country on an expired visa.

Reynolds, 62, was arrested at a hotel on Monday. He had denied charges he was found with nude pictures and videos of women and men having sexual intercourse on his mobile phone.

Harare magistrate Tendai Mahwe agreed with Reynolds' lawyer, Arthur Gurira, that state prosecutors had not sought written authority from the prosecutor general to put the former Illinois congressman on trial.

"This makes the actions of the state null and void," Gurira said.

Reynolds, who wore a khaki prison shirt and shorts, followed proceedings from the dock. He grinned and shook his head when the prosecutor was presenting the case against him.

Earlier on Friday, magistrate Mahwe said Reynolds should be deported for his visa misdemeanor. The court also fined him $100 or five days in prison.

Reynolds will still be held in prison while immigration authorities process his deportation papers.

Gurira told the court that Reynolds had suffered a mild stroke earlier this year and was taking medication.

The state-owned Herald newspaper reported on Tuesday that Reynolds had run up $24,500 in unpaid hotel bills.

Reynolds, a former Rhodes scholar, was a fast-rising star in the U.S. Democratic party when he was forced to resign in 1995 after being convicted of sexual assault, obstruction of justice and solicitation of child pornography.

In recent year he had recast himself as a champion of U.S. investment in Africa.

(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Ed Cropley)