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US dentist cleared over Cecil the lion killing by Zimbabwe

Published 12/10/2015

Dentist James Walter Palmer was identified as the man who killed Cecil the lion (AP)
Dentist James Walter Palmer was identified as the man who killed Cecil the lion (AP)

Zimbabwe is no longer pressing for the extradition of James Walter Palmer, an American dentist who killed a well-known lion called Cecil, a cabinet minister said.

Environment minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri had said in July that Zimbabwean police and prosecutors would work to ensure Mr Palmer returned to Zimbabwe to face poaching charges.

But on Monday she told reporters in Harare that Mr Palmer can now safely return to Zimbabwe as a "tourist" because he had not broken the southern African country's hunting laws.

She said the police and the National Prosecuting Authority had cleared Mr Palmer of wrongdoing.

Mr Palmer was identified as the man who killed Cecil in a bow hunt.

Cecil, a resident of Hwange National park in western Zimbabwe, was well-known to tourists and researchers.

"He is free to come, not for hunting, but as a tourist," Ms Muchinguri-Kashiri told reporters. "It turned out that Palmer came to Zimbabwe because all the papers were in order."

Mr Palmer was the subject of extradition talk in Zimbabwe and a target of protests in the US, particularly in Minnesota, where he has a dental practice.

Theo Bronkhorst, a Zimbabwean professional hunter who was a guide for Mr Palmer, returned to court last week on charges of allowing an illegal hunt. His lawyer Perpetua Dube argued that the charges are too vague and should be dropped.

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