Zimbabwe: Evan Mawarire Charged With Treason, Back in Court Friday

Evan Mawarire, in yellow, arrives at a Harare court.
17 January 2019

FIREBRAND rights activist and cleric, Pastor Evan Mawarire appeared before a Harare magistrate Thursday charged with treason and was remanded in custody to Friday as lawyers put up a fight to have his charges thrown out for lack of merit.

Mawarire was seized by armed police from his Harare home Wednesday to face charges of subverting a constitutionally elected government or alternatively, inciting public violence.

This follows a video of himself he posted on social media calling on locals to stay away from their work places in protest over government's decision to more than double prices of fuel.

Through his lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, Mawarire challenged placement on remand saying he was improperly before the court as his alleged conduct did not constitute a crime.

"If a man of God says 'stay at home for the next three days and don't be violent', how does that constitute a crime?" said Mtetwa in her submissions before magistrate Lucy Mungwari.

"The doctors have also been saying 'we want US currency', the teachers, everybody including business have been saying address economic challenges. Is that a crime?"

Mtetwa said if the courts were to find Mawarire's conduct meriting a criminal charge and trial, then everyone in Zimbabwe must be arrested on similar allegations.

She also requested the state to play the government critic's video in court to allow the presiding magistrate to determine if what Mawarire said constituted a crime at all.

Appearing for the State, Mirirai Shumba successfully sought for a postponement in order to find time to scrutinise the video before being able to respond to Mawarire's application.

The case was postponed to this Friday for continuation.

According to the state, on January 14, 2019, Mawarire, acting in connivance with the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) president Peter Mutasa, recorded and published a video calling on Zimbabweans to boycott work while also encouraging civil disobedience.

The video went viral on social media platforms which include Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

The State claims the contents of the video were meant to subvert a constitutional government.

During his arrest, Mawarire's gadgets he allegedly used to record the video were confiscated.

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