Former US congressman pleads guilty on charges of violating Zimbabwe's immigration laws

The Associated Press

Former US Congressman Mel Reynolds, centre left, prepares to enter a prison truck while handcuffed following his court appearance at the magistrates courts in Harare, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. Reynolds was arrested in Zimbabwe for allegedly possessing pornographic material and violating immigration laws. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

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By GILLIAN GOTORA, Associated Press

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — A Zimbabwe magistrate on Friday ordered former U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds to pay a fine or face jail time after he pleaded guilty to charges of violating the country's immigration laws.

Reynolds is meant to pay $100 or spend five days in prison for failing to renew his visa after it expired on Dec. 10, 2013, 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 hadn't renewed his visa because he suffered 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.

U.S. Embassy officials attended the proceedings Friday and even brought Reynolds some food. However, they declined to speak to the media, citing privacy issues.

Reynolds will appear in court again Friday afternoon on charges of possessing pornography, to which he has pleaded innocent.

The state alleges that Reynolds had images of naked men and women on his iPhone 4S. He could face up to two years' imprisonment or a hefty fine if found guilty of possessing pornographic material.

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