Self-exiled Pastor Arrested By Zimbabwe Police on Return

Police in Zimbabwe have arrested a returning pastor who fled to the United States after leading protests calling for President Robert Mugabe’s government to respect human rights and save a collapsing economy.

Evan Mawarire was arrested Wednesday at Harare International Airport upon arrival in Zimbabwe after spending about six months in exile in the U.S.

“He has been charged with subverting a constitutionally elected government,” attorney Harrison Nkomo, who is representing Mawarire, told VOA on Wednesday. “The same charges as last time [following his July protest]. I do not know what they are trying to do, so we will deal with it when we get to court. We have not been informed [of the court date], but I suspect we might go tomorrow.”

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The pastor rose to prominence last April when he posted a Facebook video of himself wrapped in a Zimbabwean flag criticizing the country. The video sparked the #ThisFlag protest movement against the government.

Mawarire backed a general strike last July calling for the Mugabe government to respect human rights and save Zimbabwe’s ailing economy.

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Following the protest, Mawarire was arrested and charged with inciting public violence, but a court ruled that police had violated his rights and released him.

He fled the country soon after.

The European Union embassy in Harare said it is “concerned” about Mawarire’s arrest.