Possible 20year jail term for Zimbabwean Pastor on trial

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State prosecutor Chris Mtungadura said social media posts by Mawarire last year were meant to incite the population to overthrow the government.

Zimbabwe put on trial on Monday an activist pastor accused of attempting to subvert the government, a charge that carries up to 20 years in prison on conviction, following protests last year against President Robert Mugabe’s handling of the economy.

Evan Mawarire, through his #ThisFlag movement, led a stay-at-home demonstration in 2016, the biggest protest in a decade, via a social media campaign that urged citizens to speak out against economic problems and government failure to pay workers.

Mawarire was arrested again for subversion on Sunday as he stepped down from his pulpit after police accused him of circulating social media posts that accused the government of wrecking the economy.

Appearing in maroon slacks at the High Court, the clergyman pleaded not guilty to two charges of subverting the government and two charges of inciting public violence. The latter carries a penalty of up to 10 years in jail.

State prosecutor Chris Mtungadura said social media posts by Mawarire last year were meant to incite the population to overthrow the government. The state has lined up eight witnesses.

“He was exercising his constitutional rights of challenging the policies of the government. This … was done in a lawful manner,” defence lawyer Harrison Nkomo told the court.