A Zimbabwean court has denied bail to an opposition politician who called for protests against government corruption and rolled over a similar case against a journalist to Friday.
Jacob Ngarivhume, who called for the July 31 street demonstrations with support from the main opposition party, was arrested together with freelance journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and charged with inciting the public to commit violence.
A magistrate on Thursday said if released, Ngarivhume would continue to promote violent protests and urge the public to break a coronavirus lockdown.
He will remain in prison detention until a routine court appearance next month.
Another magistrate separately deferred the bail hearing for Chin’ono, a Harvard University Nieman Fellow, to Friday. His detention drew sharp criticism in Zimbabwe and abroad.
Businesses and courts close at 3pm (13:00 GMT) in Zimbabwe after a dawn-to-dusk curfew that came into effect on Wednesday to curb the COVID-19 crisis.
Ngarivhume’s lawyer said he would appeal the ruling at the High Court. The two men face up to 10 years’ jail if convicted.
Critics say the duo is being persecuted for speaking out against corruption in government.
Journalists, lawyers, doctors and nurses are among those who have been arrested in recent months in Zimbabwe for protesting, striking for better pay or, in some cases, simply doing their work amid rising tensions in the country.
Political tension is rising in Zimbabwe, where inflation is running above 700 percent, angering citizens who say President Emmerson Mnangagwa has failed to deliver on a promise to revive the economy after the removal of Robert Mugabe in a 2017 coup.
Last week, Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s director for East and Southern Africa, condemned the arrests saying it was “designed to intimidate and send a chilling message to journalists, whistle-blowers and activists who draw attention to matters of public interest in Zimbabwe”.
“Zimbabwean authorities must stop misusing the criminal justice system to persecute journalists and activists who are simply exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The authorities must stop using the police and courts to silence dissent.”