Job Sikhala was on Thursday fined US$500 by a magistrate and handed a nine-month suspended prison sentence after being found guilty of publishing falsehoods on social media following the murder of an activist from the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change in 2022.

Sikhala were arrested in January 2021 for allegedly “publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the state”.

The charges were related to a viral video of a woman tussling with a police officer while holding a motionless baby in her hands in January 2021.

Sikhala’s lawyer Harrison Nkomo argued in court that his client should never have been charged in the first place under a law which had earlier been ruled to be unconstitutional by the High Court.

Amnesty International deputy director for East and Southern Africa, Khanyo Farisè said Sikhala’s conviction “is a travesty of justice as it is based on a law that no longer exists in Zimbabwe and has been used to silence peaceful dissent.”

“The legal provision that was applied to convict Sikhala was declared void by the Constitutional Court in 2014. The High Court confirmed this in another case in 2021,” Farisè said in a statement.

She said Sikhala’s conviction and sentencing, which comes barely three weeks after his release from 595 days in pre-trial detention for another case, highlighted the escalating repression and shrinking space for exercising the rights to freedom of expression and association in Zimbabwe.

“Zimbabwean authorities must quash the conviction and sentence and stop weaponizing the criminal justice system to target and harass political opponents and individuals exercising their right to freedom of expression both online and offline.”

Sikhala’s lawyers said they are going to appeal against the judgement as “it has no foundation (and) it is not sound.

“The law no longer exists and it is wrong for a court to convict someone on law that no longer exists,” Nkomo said.