Evan Mawarire, the Zimbabwean pastor and political activist, who was arrested on Wednesday night when he arrived in the country from the United States (US) has been charged with subversion and abusing the national flag.
He was charged in July last year of trying to overthrow President Robert Mugabe’s government by calling for protests, but he was freed by a magistrate court which said police had not followed procedure. He is however in police detention and is due to appear in court on Friday.
A document titled ‘Warned and Cautioned Statement,’ contains Mawarire’s account to the police noted that he was held in connection with a case of ‘Subverting Constitutional Government as defined in section 22(2) (a) of the Criminal Law (Clarification and reform), Act Chapter 9:23.
The law will always catch up with you even if you go away. Mawarire had a warrant of arrest against him.
Harrison Nkomo, his lawyer, said the pastor had been arrested at Harare’s airport and was taken to the capital’s central police station.
#Zimbabwe Pastor Evan is also being charged with abusing/insulting the national flag— harumutasa/aljazeera (@harumutasa) February 2, 2017
Police spokeswoman Charity Charamba speaking on Mawarire’s arrest, said he had an outstanding warrant after failing to appear in court last year. “The law will always catch up with you even if you go away. Mawarire had a warrant of arrest against him,” Charamba said.
After he was freed by the court in July, police had said they still wanted to file more charges against Mawarire. He traveled to South Africa and then the United States, where he had been living with his family since July.
His absence drew condemnation from supporters, who accused him of abandoning them when his leadership was needed. He is famed for carrying the Zimbabwean flag whenever he appears to leave a message especially on social media platform Twitter.
Last year, the Zimbabwean government warned against infringing on the flag. They warned that persons who manufactured, imported or sold the national flag without authority risked prosecution. Same applied to anyone who burned or mutilated the flag.
The government’s move came against the back of #ThisFlag campaign, a largely social media organized campaign that tasked Zimbabweans to use anti-government protests to protect the integrity of the nation which was suffering an economic downturn.