Judge orders Evan Mawarire’s release on $2000 bail

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By Mary Taruvinga

PROMINENT rights activist and cleric, Evan Mawarire was Friday granted $2000 bail by a High Court judge, ending nearly two weeks of his remand prison detention on alleged subversion charges.

Mawarire was seized from his Harare home by armed police after he had recorded and circulated a video through social media, calling for a three-day job stay away by locals, in protest over a government decision to hike fuel prices by more than double.

In his ruling, Justice Tawanda Chitapi said there was no point of continuously keeping the activist in custody as it was clear he was not a flight risk.

“In disposing of the application, I have considered that the applicant’s allegations to motivate his prayer for release on bail have not been controverted.

“He has undertaken to stand trial and to argue that his conduct did not amount to an offence.

“I also consider that the applicant has shown that he is not a flight risk and there is no evidence of interference with the state witnesses and investigations and thus, release of the accused will not undermine or jeopardise the proper functioning of the criminal justice system.

“Society does not crave for suspects who have an arguable defence to be committed to custody pending trial.”

The job boycott which was called by Mawarire and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions turned riotous.

Shops were looted while property was vandalised during countrywide skirmishes, later put down by a fierce state security reaction which left 12 dead.

In his ruling, Justice Chitapi also came close to absolving the firebrand activist from charges he was facing, saying he found nothing wrong with what Mawarire is alleged to have done.

“While it is true that the society abhors what took place, it cannot be said that abhorrence will be atoned by denying bail to suspects whose involvement in the mayhem consisted of calling upon citizenry to stay away in protest over listed grievances against government and for persons exercising the stay away to remain in their homes and not engage in violence.

“In striking a balance, I am persuaded on the circumstances of the case and the applicant that the interests of justice will be served by the admission of the applicant to bail,” he said.

As part of his bail conditions, Mawarire was ordered to surrender his passport and title deeds to his parents’ Kwekwe home as surety.

He was also ordered to continue residing at his given address, not to interfere with witnesses and to report thrice a week at Avondale police station.

Mawarire is expected back at the lower January 31.