Zimbabwean activist charged with subversion over protests

Rashid Mahiya
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HARARE (AP) – Civil society activist Rashid Mahiya has been arrested and charged with subversion following violent anti-government protests that rocked Zimbabwe in January, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Mahiya is director of Heal Zimbabwe Trust and also chairman of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, peace-building and civil rights non-profit organisations operating in the country.

“He is charged with subverting a constitutionally-elected government,” lawyer Tonderai Bhatasara, told AFP by phone. He is due to appear in court on Tuesday.

He is the latest civil society leader to face similar charges following the arrest of activist and pastor Evan Mawarire, and two leaders of the country’s main trade union federation last month.

Mahiya turned himself in on Monday after unknown people raided his house while he was not at home.

“We had some information that he could be wanted. We thought it was prudent to present (himself) to known police officers at a police station than to wait to be arrested by vigilantes,” said the lawyer.

Crisis Coalition Zimbabwe said in a statement that “prior to his arrest members of the security forces ransacked his home abducting his mother and severely assaulting his brother, as they demanded to know his whereabouts”.

Charges against Mahiya arise from a meeting he organised in December which was attended by several non-governmental organisations.

Police “are alleging that that is when he called on members of other NGOs and Zimbabweans in general that they should subvert the elected government and they are then linking that (meeting) with what happened on 14 January this year,” said Bhatasara.

Protests erupted nationwide following President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s announcement that fuel prices would double in a country suffering spiralling living costs and regular shortages of basic commodities.

Widespread rioting and looting saw troops and police intervene. In the ensuing crackdown, at least 17 people died and hundreds were injured, dozens with gunshot wounds.

More than 1,100 people, including opposition lawmakers were arrested.