The latest arrest of #thisflag movement founder Pastor Evan Mawarire in Zimbabwe has drawn sharp criticism of “a government hell-bent on criminalizing him” from Amnesty International.
“Pastor Evan Mawarire is a prisoner of conscience held solely for the peaceful exercise of his rights. He must be immediately and unconditionally released,” said Belinda Moses, Amnesty’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa, in a statement.
Mawarire was arrested Monday after holding prayers with medical students at the University of Zimbabwe who were protesting sharp academic fee increases. Their protests were shut down, with university officials demanding that some 600 medical students leave their residence halls and campus.
Mawarire is already facing up to 20 years in prison on charges of “subverting a constitutionally elected government” and insulting the flag following his January 31 arrest at Harare International Airport, where he was taken into custody upon returning from a trip to the United States. Those charges relate in part to protests against President Robert Mugabe that Mawarire organized in New York last year.
Mawarire was awaiting trial when he was arrested again this week. The pastor, whose 2016 video message sparked Zimbabwe’s #thisflag reform movement to address corruption and related issues, had remained out on bond.
He was previously arrested last July and charged with incitement to commit public violence while leading two-day national protests, but the arrest was later determined to be unconstitutional and the charge was dismissed.
To watch the four-minute video that launched the #ThisFlag movement, see this link.
Image: Evan Mawarire