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3 Americans Convicted in Zimbabwe Released

November 07, 1999|Associated Press

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Three Americans convicted of illegal weapons charges were expected to arrive home in the United States today after being released for good behavior.

Gary George Blanchard, Joseph Wendell Pettijohn and John Lamonte Dixon, all in their 30s, had been arrested in March at Harare's international airport as they tried to board a flight to Switzerland.

The three men, who said they were missionaries with Indianapolis-based Harvestfield Ministries Pentecostal Church, were found guilty of possessing 39 guns and other weapons.

They admitted smuggling the weapons, which they said they used for recreation, from their mission base in Congo across Zambia into Zimbabwe. They said they were worried about the consequences to church members and ministers in Congo if the government discovered the weapons.

Under Zimbabwean law, prisoners are automatically considered for parole after serving two-thirds of their sentence, and released for good behavior.

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