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Zimbabwe police charge protest pastor over speech

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Zimbabwean pastor Evan Mawarire, who led protests last year against Zimbabwean President’s authoritarian government, answers journalists’ questions after being released on bail from prison on February 9, 2017 in Harare, Zimbabwe.Evan Mawarire, an evangelical pastor, started the popular “This Flag” protest movement after posting a Facebook video last April, in which he wore Zimbabwe’s flag on his shoulders as he condemned the country’s worsening economic crisis. / AFP PHOTO / Jekesai NJIKIZANA

Zimbabwe police arrested prominent protest pastor and anti-government campaigner Evan Mwawire on Monday after he spoke to a group of striking medical students, his family and lawyer said.

Mawarire, who last year led a mass anti-government movement dubbed “#ThisFlag” after he appeared on social media draped in the national colours, was arrested at the University of Zimbabwe, his sister Teldah Mawarire told AFP.

“I am with him at the police station,” said his lawyer Harrison Nkomo, adding that Mawarire had been charged with “disorderly conduct in a public place”.

Mawarire had earlier posted a video clip of his arrest on social media saying it was linked to his speech to students.

“I have been arrested. I am at Avondale police station,” Mawarire said in the 42-second video clip.

“The reason I have been arrested is that I addressed university students whose fees had been increased. I have done nothing wrong.”

Scores of placard-wielding students assembled at the main student union building to protest fee increases.

“The students are holding a peaceful protest against the decision to increase their fees two weeks before they sit for their examinations,” Allister Pfunde, president of the Zimbabwe National Students’ Union told AFP.

“The majority of these students can’t afford decent accommodation and proper meals.”

The university accused the students of throwing stones and responded by ordering all medical students out of their university halls of residence.

Mawarire’s anti-government movement shut down major cities and paralysed public transport and prompted the government to ban public protests.

He was arrested and and charged with “attempting to subvert a constitutionally-elected government” though he has yet to face trial over those charges.



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