Zimbabwe no longer seeking extradition of dentist in Cecil the Lion killing

FILE - In this image takem from a November 2012 video made available by Paula French, a well-known, protected lion known as Cecil strolls around in Hwange National Park, in Hwange, Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe's wildlife minister says extradition is being sought for Walter Palmer, the American dentist who killed a Cecil. (Paula French via AP)
FILE - In this image takem from a November 2012 video made available by Paula French, a well-known, protected lion known as Cecil strolls around in Hwange National Park, in Hwange, Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe's wildlife minister says extradition is being sought for Walter Palmer, the American dentist who killed a Cecil. (Paula French via AP)

HARARE, Zimbabwe (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 Monday.

Palmer can now safely return to Zimbabwe as a “tourist” because he had not broken the southern African country’s hunting laws, Environment, Water and Climate Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri told reporters in Harare on Monday. Zimbabwe’s police and the National Prosecuting Authority had cleared Palmer of wrongdoing, she said.

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 for his identifiable black mane.

Muchinguri-Kashiri had said in July that Zimbabwean police and prosecutors would work to get Palmer returned to Zimbabwe to face poaching charges.

On Monday, she told reporters in Harare that Palmer can now safely return to Zimbabwe as a “tourist” because he had not broken this wildlife-rich southern African country’s hunting laws.

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

Palmer was the subject of extradition talk in Zimbabwe and a target of protests in the United States, particularly in Minnesota, where he has a dental practice, after he was identified as the man who killed Cecil the lion in a bow hunt. Cecil was a resident of Hwange National Park in western Zimbabwe.

Theo Bronkhorst, a Zimbabwean professional hunter who was a guide for 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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