Lawyers: Zim activist Evan Mawarire facing subversion charges

It’s a crime which carries up to 20 years in jail on conviction.

This file photo taken on 19 May 2016 shows Zimbabwean cleric Evan Mawarire, wrapped in the Zimbabwean national flag, recording an instalment of his #ThisFlag video series. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Lawyers say police plan to charge activist pastor Evan Mawarire with subverting the government.

It’s a crime which carries up to 20 years in jail on conviction.

Mawarire was arrested by armed police on Wednesday and was initially charged with the lesser crime of inciting public violence after he circulated Facebook videos encouraging Zimbabweans to heed a stay-at-home strike called by the country’s biggest labour union, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.

A doctors' group says it had treated nearly 70 people for gunshot wounds while police rounded up hundreds after the protests, which were triggered by president Emmerson Mnangagwa’s decision to raise fuel prices by a staggering 150%.

At the same time, Western diplomats in Zimbabwe have expressed alarm at reports of a government crackdown against protesters during this week’s strike.

After an internet shutdown, details have started to emerge about some of the injuries sustained by civilians allegedly at the hands of the security forces.

The US embassy in Harare says it condemns the disproportionate use of force by the security agencies.

It says its alarmed at credible reports that labour leaders and activists who organised the three-day shut down this week have been targeted.

The head of the European Union delegation to Zimbabwe, Timo Olkkonen, said that what has happened in Zimbabwe this week is tragic.

The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights has released details of what it called an unfolding rights crisis in the country.

It said its members had treated more than 170 people with injuries, including 68 people with gunshot wounds sustained in clashes with police.

(Edited by Thapelo Lekabe)