Prominent activist seeks bail after arrest during protests

Evan Mawarire is charged with subverting the government and inciting public violence.
Zimbabwean cleric and activist Pastor Evan Mawarire (L) leaves the Harare Magistrates Court in Harare on January 18, 2019, after a court hearing on subversion charges. – Mawarire was arrested by armed police at his home in Harare on January 16, in a widening security crackdown after violent anti-government protests. Nationwide demonstrations erupted in Zimbabwe on January 14 after the president announced that fuel prices were being doubled in a country suffering regular shortages of fuel, food and medicine. (Photo by Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP)

Leading activist Evan Mawarire, who was arrested last week on subversion charges following anti-government protests brutally put down by security forces, applied Friday for release from detention.

But the prosecution opposed his bail application on grounds that he was likely to abscond.

“If convicted, he’s likely to stand a long term of imprisonment and that is enough inducement for him to flee,” prosecutor Mirirai Shumba told the High Court in Harare.

Mawarire is accused of subverting a constitutionally elected government and incitement to commit violence by posting videos on social media supporting a national strike called by trade unions.

His lawyer Tonderai Bhatasara argued that “there is no propensity or likelihood” for Mawarire to flee.

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Judge Tawanda Chitapi said he would hand down his ruling on the bail application on Tuesday. 

Nationwide demonstrations erupted last week after President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced that fuel prices were being doubled in a country suffering regular shortages of fuel, food and medicine.

Furious demonstrators took to the streets in several cities and towns with widespread rioting and looting. 

At least 12 people died in the ensuing crackdown in which security forces said they arrested more than 1,100 suspects, including leading trade unionists and opposition Movement for Democratic Change lawmakers and senior figures.

Mawarire, a pastor, became a prominent voice during protests of 2016 when he posted videos on social media criticising the government while wearing a Zimbabwean flag around his neck.

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His posts inspired the #ThisFlag movement that led mass protests against Mugabe, who was ousted after a military takeover.

The activist was then arrested on subversion charges, freed on bail and later acquitted after trial.

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