Mawarire freed on fresh subversion charge

HARARE - Activist pastor, Evan Mawarire, accused of attempting to subvert the government following a Facebook live post sledging President Robert Mugabe’s “appalling handling” of the economy was freed by the courts yesterday because he had been over detained.

Mawarire of  #ThisFlag movement was arrested on Sunday on fresh charges of attempting to overthrow the Mugabe government.

He was freed after the presiding magistrate noted that he had been detained beyond the mandatory 48 hours before appearing in court.

“What is clear is that anyone who has been arrested must be brought to court without any exceptions.

“This court is bound by the Constitution, no wonder why the courts now sit on weekends and public holidays in compliance with the 48-hour provision.

“The clock started to tick as soon as accused was arrested on Sunday at 12pm.

“No explanation tendered by the State can be accepted and the court orders release of the accused immediately,” Elisha Singano, the presiding magistrate ruled.

The charges emanate from a video posted by Mawarire on social media complaining about worsening fuel shortages in  the country and accusing government of throwing caution to the wind on bond notes.

The video has gone viral, with the State claiming Mawarire was inciting the public to stage an uprising against government over fuel shortages, cash shortages and price hikes in supermarkets.

According to the fresh allegations before the Harare Magistrates’ Courts, Mawarire was accused of visiting several service stations where there were fuel queues in Harare and recorded a video urging people to revolt against a constitutionally-elected government.

Mawarire was also facing an alternative charge of incitement to commit public violence.

“The accused’s video is widely circulating on the social media and there is a potential that the video can lead to incite people of Zimbabwe to revolt against the constitutionally-elected government of Zimbabwe,” reads the court papers.

His appearance before the Harare Magistrates’ Courts resulted in the postponement of his High Court trial on another charge of attempting to subvert a constitutionally elected government following protests he led last year against government. He appeared in the High Court on Monday, and was granted bail. The trial at the High Court will only resume on Thursday.

He has since pleaded not guilty to last year’s allegations before the High Court, claiming the State case does not disclose an offence.

“To the extent that the State has miserably failed to allege in the indictment, summons and charge that indeed the accused person wanted to remove the government by unconstitutional means, the charges do not hold water.

“Resultantly, the charges must fall and they must fall now,” Mawarire said through his lawyer Harrison Nkomo.

He further said that in terms of the Constitution, he has a right to criticise the government.

“Having understood the values that Zimbabwe as a society, stands for, and having examined the constitutional obligation imposed on every citizen, natural or juristic and its binding nature on the executive, in the year 2016, accused person took a conscious decision to lawfully register his displeasure on (the) introduction of bond notes by the government of the day, rampant corruption in government, ban on importation of certain goods imposed by Statutory Instrument 64/2016 and general unemployment in the country,” he said.

Allegations are that between July 13 and December last year, Mawarire printed and used electronic media to incite Zimbabweans to revolt against the constitutionally elected government.

He was arrested on February 1, 2017 at the Harare International Airport upon his surprise return to Zimbabwe from the US.

The popular clergyman had at that point helped to organise one of the most successful and peaceful strikes in the history of post- independent Zimbabwe, with long-suffering citizens heeding his call to stay away from work to protest the country’s worsening rot.

His last year’s crippling strike forced the panicking Zanu PF government to use excessive force to quell subsequent protests, as Zimbabweans agitated for change.

Mawarire is also on trial on incitement of violence charges after he joined demonstrating medical students at the University of Zimbabwe recently.

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