July 22, 2020 / 6:16 PM / 24 days ago

Zimbabwe activist, journalist charged in court over planned protests

HARARE (Reuters) - A Zimbabwean rights activist and a journalist were charged in court on Wednesday with promoting public violence ahead of planned anti-government protests next week and will be kept in jail until a bail ruling on Thursday.

Jacob Ngarivhume, an activist and opposition politician behind the July 31 demonstrations, and freelance journalist and government critic Hopewell Chin’ono were arrested at their homes on Monday.

In court, state prosecutors accused the two of using their Twitter accounts to mobilise Zimbabweans to commit public violence by encouraging citizens to demonstrate.

Activists have called for street demonstrations on July 31 against government corruption, which they say has deepened the worst economic crisis in more than a decade.

The two men, who appeared before different magistrates, were not asked to enter a plea. They face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

State prosecutors opposed bail, saying if they were released Ngarivhume and Chin’ono would flee the country and continue using social media to rally citizens to take part in the planned demonstrations and expose many people to the coronavirus.

A lawyer for the two, Doug Coltart, said the facts presented by the state did not disclose any offence.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday announced a night-time curfew and tightened other measures to tackle rising coronavirus infections. He said curtailing freedoms was necessary to curb the pandemic.

But the opposition says the government is using health restrictions to trample on political rights.

Mnangagwa, without providing evidence, accuses the opposition of being part of a plot against his government with the support of some Western countries.

Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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