Activist pastor Mawarire detained over protests to apply for bail

Evan Mawarire

HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwean activist pastor Evan Mawarire who was arrested on charges of subversion amid violent anti-government protests is expected to apply for bail at a High Court hearing on Friday.

Security forces have dispersed demonstrations by force and cracked down on activists. Protests erupted last week following a hike in fuel prices. Rights groups say a dozen people have died in the unrest, though police put the figure at three.

Mawarire is one of more than 100 people who will face trial in the capital as well as the second city of Bulawayo and two other towns on public order charges, lawyers said.

Mawarire denies accusations that his Facebook video encouraging Zimbabweans to heed a strike call by the Zimbabwe Confederation of Trade Unions incited people to violence.

Mawarire is in detention at Chikurubi Maximum Prison in Harare.

Zimbabwe’s independent Human Rights Commission has accused security forces of systematic torture. The opposition says it fears soldiers are able to shoot and kill without being held accountable, after an official inquiry said the army shot civilians to quell post-election violence last August.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who replaced Robert Mugabe after a de facto coup in November 2017 and promised to break with his strong-arm politics, promised this week to investigate security services’ actions against protesters.