Zimbabwean cleric and activist Evan Mawarire was on Thursday charged with attempting to subvert President Robert Mugabe’s constitutionally elected government, according to his lawyer.
Mawarire was arrested on Wednesday at the Harare International Airport on his surprise return to Zimbabwe - after spending several months in self-imposed exile.
Mugabe said Mawarire was not welcome in the country following protests that were led by the cleric against his rule last year. The nonagenarian accused Mawarire of being foreign-sponsored to destabilise his government.
Mawarire’s attorney, Harrison Nkomo, said the cleric, who fled the southern African country immediately after being freed by a Harare magistrate, was charged with subversion stemming from protests held in New York by some Zimbabweans against Mugabe during the United Nations General Assembly held in September last year.
“The state is alleging that he (Mawarire) incited people to revolt and overthrow the government between July and December 2016 when he was abroad. He has been charged under the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act,” said Nkomo.
Mawarire’s statement recorded by the police said the pastor circulated several videos on social media platforms in which he allegedly incited Zimbabweans to stage violent protests against Mugabe’s administration.
The statement said the cleric incited Zimbabweans in the United States and the world over to converge in New York City on September 22 2016 to confront Mugabe, who was attending the UN General Assembly, and to order him to resign from his position, accusing him of destroying the country.
It remained unclear when Mawarire would be arraigned before a magistrate, although Zimbabwe’s constitution stipulated that an accused person should be brought to court within 48 hours following his or her arrest.
Mawarire became famous after he launched the #ThisFlag movement against state corruption and poverty – which rattled Mugabe and his government to an extent not seen for a number of years. His movement was also instrumental in leading a two-day mass stay-away held in July last year that crippled government business and the entire public transport sector. - News24