The Harare High Court on Wednesday granted Pastor Evan Mawarire bail a week after the rights activist and founder of social media campaign #ThisFlag was arrested on arrival at the airport from the United States on suspicion of plotting to overthrow 92-year-old President Robert Mugabe’s government.
After the court granted Mawarire bail and ordered his release on February 9, Amnesty International and Civicus said: “The Zimbabwean authorities must drop all politically motivated charges against human rights activist Pastor Evan Mawarire and stop using the criminal justice system to harass and intimidate him for his activism”.
Mawarire’s USD 300 bail came with strict conditions, including surrendering his passport to authorities and reporting to the police twice every week.
Upon his return to Zimbabwe last week, Mawarire was arrested and charged with subversion and “insulting the national Flag of Zimbabwe” in connection with protests he led in 2016 over corruption and economic decline.
“Pastor Evan Mawarire is being subjected to political persecution through the courts for exercising his freedom of expression. His continued persecution has a chilling effect on peaceful activism in Zimbabwe,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa.
“The release of Pastor Evan Mawarire on bail is not enough, the politically motivated charges against him must be completely withdrawn. The state cannot continue to harass and intimidate him simply for standing up for human rights.”
The two organisations are calling on the Zimbabwean government to stop punishing those who seek to hold their government accountable.
“No one should be put behind bars for asking difficult questions about the governance of the country. Instead of listening to them, the government is subjecting people like Pastor Evan Mawarire to trumped-up criminal investigations,” said David Kode, Senior Policy and Research Officer at Civicus.
“The actions of the state go against the principles of justice, and demonstrate a systematic targeting of those who dare to hold the government to account.”
Mawarire led several anti-government protests in 2016 against corruption, human rights violations and the declining economy in the country.
He was previously arrested on July 12, 2016 and charged with incitement to commit public violence after leading a national shutdown between July 13 and 14. He was released after a magistrate found his arrest to be unconstitutional and dismissed the charge against him.
– African News Agency