The Zimbabwean authorities must drop all politically motivated charges against human rights activist Pastor Evan Mawarire and stop using the criminal justice system to harass and intimidate him for his activism, Amnesty International and Civicus said today after the Harare High Court granted him bail and ordered his release on 9 February.
The release of Pastor Evan Mawarire on bail is not enough, the politically motivated charges against him must be completely withdrawnMuleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa
Upon his return to Zimbabwe last week, he was arrested and charged with subversion and “insulting the national Flag of Zimbabwe” in connection with protests he led in 2016 over corruption and economic decline.
“Pastor Evan Mawarire is being subjected to political persecution through the courts for exercising his freedom of expression. His continued persecution has a chilling effect on peaceful activism in Zimbabwe,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa.
“The release of Pastor Evan Mawarire on bail is not enough, the politically motivated charges against him must be completely withdrawn. The state cannot continue to harass and intimidate him simply for standing up for human rights.”
Pastor Evan Mawarire is being subjected to political persecution through the courts for exercising his freedom of expressionMuleya Mwananyanda
The two organizations are calling on the Zimbabwean government to stop punishing those who seek to hold their government accountable.
“No one should be put behind bars for asking difficult questions about the governance of the country. Instead of listening to them, the government is subjecting people like Pastor Evan Mawarire to trumped-up criminal investigations,” said David Kode, Senior Policy and Research Officer at CIVICUS.
“The actions of the state go against the principles of justice, and demonstrate a systematic targeting of those who dare to hold the government to account.”
Pastor Evan Mawarire, founder and one of the leaders of the #Thisflag movement, led several anti-government protests in 2016 against corruption, human rights violations and the declining economy in the country.
He was previously arrested on 12 July 2016 and charged with incitement to commit public violence after leading a national shutdown between 13 and 14 July 2016. He was released after a magistrate found his arrest to be unconstitutional and dismissed the charge against him.
His USD 300 bail came with strict conditions, including surrendering his passport to authorities and reporting to the police twice every week.