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Zimbabwe activist pastor Mawarire applies for bail

Pastor Evan Mawarire (L) leaves a court in Harare after a hearing on subversion charges, 18 January 2019. Photo: Jekesai Njikizana/AFP

Zimbabwean activist Evan Mawarire has applied for bail following charges accusing him of trying to subvert the government and inciting public violence with videos posted on social media supporting a trade union strike. The prosecution opposed the bail, arguing that the prominent Zimbabwean pastor was a flight risk.

Prosecutor Mirirai Shumba told the High Court in Harare that the long sentence he faces if convicted would be an “inducement for him to flee”, according to the AFP news agency.

Mawarire’s lawyer Tonderai Bhatasara argued that there was “no propensity or likelihood” of him absconding.

Judge Tawanda Chitapi told the court he would deliver his verdict on the bail application on Tuesday, AFP reported.

Protests in Zimbabwe erupted last week after President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced a hike in fuel prices, doubling the cost of petrol in a country which has regularly suffered fuel, food and medicine shortages.

Angry protesters took to the streets in several towns and cities across the country with widespread looting and rioting.

The ensuing crackdown by security forces led to at least 12 people being killed, while more than 1,100 people were arrested including trade unionists and members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party.

Mawarire led the #ThisFlag movement in 2016 with demonstrations against then-president Robert Mugabe. He had posted videos on social media wearing a Zimbabwean flag around his neck and criticised the government.

He was arrested on subversion charges, but later freed on bail and found not guilty.