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Zimbabwe union leader faces subversion charge after protests



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A Zimbabwean union leader who backed a nationwide strike last week over fuel-price hikes was kept in custody on Wednesday, charged with trying to subvert the government and inciting violence.

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions Secretary General Japhet Moyo was arrested on Monday as he flew into the country at Robert Mugabe International. He denies the charges against him.

“He is facing charges of attempting to overthrow a constitutionally elected government… (and) incitement to public violence,” his lawyer Alec Muchadehama told AFP at the courthouse in Harare.

“He totally denies these scandalous charges,” the lawyer told the magistrates court during an early evening hearing.

Moyo is one of a number of high-profile activists arrested after the strike turned into nationwide protests with some rioting and looting.

At least 12 people died after a brutal crackdown by the military and the police, while hundreds more were arrested.

Leading Zimbabwean activist Pastor Evan Mawarire is also in custody on charges of subverting the government and inciting violence, apparently after backing the national strike on social media.

Moyo’s lawyer said initially the police charged him for sending messages through social media to go on a strike.

“But today they have since changed to say that he was actually holding meetings on behalf of ZCTU and other civil society and other members of the public where they were actually doing some planning to overthrown the government as well as to incite public violence,” said the lawyer.

Moyo’s attempts to be freed on grounds of unlawful detention, failed on Wednesday. Magistrate Elisha Singano told him to apply for bail at the High Court because of the severity of the charges he faces.

He was ordered to return to court on Monday, January 28.

Hundreds of people were rounded up during a widespread and violent security crackdown, during which civilians are dragged from their houses at night.

The government has acknowledged accusations by the country’s human rights commission that its security forces engaged in “systematic torture” during the crackdown. It has said there are lessons to be learnt from the operation.​