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Zimbabwean activist charged with subversion over protests

By AFP

Added 26th February 2019 08:23 PM

Investigators allege that he used the gathering to call on other groups and fellow Zimbabweans to "subvert the elected government"

Investigators allege that he used the gathering to call on other groups and fellow Zimbabweans to "subvert the elected government"

Zimbabwean activist Rashid Mahiya has been arrested and charged with subversion following violent anti-government protests that rocked the country last month, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Mahiya is director of Heal Zimbabwe Trust and chairman of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, an alliance of rights and social action groups.

"He is charged with subverting a constitutionally elected government," attorney Tonderai Bhatasara told AFP by phone. 

Mahiya was remanded in custody to March 12 after briefly appearing in court on Tuesday, he said.

Mahiya turned himself in on Monday after unknown individuals 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," Bhatasara said.

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

Investigators allege that he used the gathering to call on other groups and fellow Zimbabweans to "subvert the elected government", according to Bhatasara.

In a separate incident, police arrested leading comedian and satirist Samantha Kureya on Tuesday after she appeared on a set wearing a fancy-dress police uniform, lawyers said.

Kureya, popularly known as "Gonyeti", is one of the artists behind the popular online satirical channel BustopTV.

"She was picked up from her house (and) taken to a police station where she was quizzed about where she got the uniform," Kumbirai Mafunda, spokesman for Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights told AFP.

She was released after paying a fine equivalent to $20 (17.60 euros).

The pair are the latest high-profile figures to face such action following the arrest of activist and pastor Evan Mawarire, as well as two leaders of the country's main trade union federation last month.

Protests erupted nationwide following an announcement that fuel prices would double in a country already suffering soaring living costs and regular shortages of basic commodities.

Troops and police intervened following widespread looting and rioting. In the ensuing crackdown, at least 17 people died and hundreds were injured, dozens with gunshot wounds.

."Harassment and targeted arrests of civil society leaders damage Zimbabwe's reputation and economic future," the US embassy said in a tweet.

"We call on the Zimbabwean government to uphold its constitution, protect human rights, and foster an environment where all can contribute to the nation's progress," it said.

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