Pro-democracy activist convicted

HARARE - Pro-democracy activist Linda Masarira was found guilty on Friday on charges of fanning public violence during the July 6, 2016 ‘‘stay away’’ protest movement led by church minister Evan Mawarire.

Masarira was convicted by Mbare magistrate Stanford Mambanje, who acquitted four of her co-accused human rights activists for shutting down most businesses, government offices, schools and hospitals in the biggest act of public defiance against 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe in a decade..

The protest annoyed Mugabe amid escalating economic and political crises in the country, with the nonagenarian alleging the protests were sponsored by foreign States.

Masarira — represented by Kudzayi Kadzere of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) — has been on trial since last year after she was arrested on July 6.

She was convicted for contravening Section 38 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23 for allegedly obstructing or endangering free movements of persons or vehicles during the #ShutdownZim2016 anti-government protests.

She faces up to 10 years in prison or a fine not exceeding level 12 which is $2 000 when she is sentenced tomorrow.

In convicting Masarira, magistrate Mambanje labelled the pro-democracy campaigner “a notorious activist” and “a social media agitator.”

Her lawyer, who successfully applied for bail on Friday pending sentence indicated in court he planned to file post-trial motions challenging the convictions, though he did not specify on what grounds.

The protests were organised by Mawarire, who rallied followers under his #ThisFlag Twitter campaign, but insists his protests were peaceful and against government corruption, alleged police brutality, delays in paying State workers’ salaries and cash shortages.

Mawarire was arrested last month at the Harare International Airport on his surprise return to the country after spending six months in self-imposed exile, mostly in the United States.

He was subsequently charged with attempting to subvert Mugabe’s constitutionally-elected government, public violence and insulting the national flag.

He is currently on $300 bail.

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