HARARE – A Harare magistrate ruled on Friday that activist pastor Evan Mawarire would stand trial for allegedly subverting the government and that he must appear in court on January 31.
Mawarire, who rose to prominence as a critic of former President Robert Mugabe and led a national protest in 2016, will be kept in custody until his next court appearance.
Harare magistrate Lucy Mungaru turned down Mawarire’s application to dismiss the charges, saying there was reasonable suspicion that he committed the offence.
His lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, who had argued that facts presented by the prosecution did not disclose an offence, said they would apply for bail at the High Court.
Mawarire was arrested on Wednesday after Monday’s protests triggered by a 150 percent fuel price increase decreed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Prosecutors accuse him of posting internet videos encouraging people to heed a call by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions to stage a three-day work boycott. Youths poured into the streets on the first day, before the military and police launched a brutal door-to-door crackdown targeting youths suspected of participating in the protests as well as prominent regime critics.
Outside court on Thursday, his first appearance, Mawarire told reporters: “I can’t tell you how disappointing it is. We thought we had a new country and a new way of doing things.
“None of what I am being accused of is what I have done. If we have true justice in this country, let’s see it at play. I am very upset.”
Mtetwa described the charges as “deliberate falsehoods”.
Mawarire is one of more than 600 people arrested this week in a violent crackdown, and the government has ordered internet services shut off. At least 90 people have been shot by security forces, 12 of them fatally.-zimlive