Pastor charged to court for staging biggest shutdown in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe police have charged the organiser of the country's biggest shutdown protest in close to a decade with inciting violence and disturbing the peace, a day ahead of more protests planned across the country.

Evan Mawarire, a pastor, handed himself over to police on Tuesday in the company of a lawyer after police indicated they wanted to question him.

Many people answered his call on social media last week for a job boycott in the southern Africa country to protest dismal economic conditions under longtime President Robert Mugabe.

Police took Mawarire to his home in the capital, Harare, to search it, said his lawyer, Harrison Nkomo.

"They also searched his church building claiming to be looking for a stolen police helmet and baton stick. They also said they were looking for subversive material he allegedly plans to use for tomorrow's protest," Nkomo told The Associated Press.

He said police seized Mawarire's mobile phone after failing to find the alleged subversive material.

A police spokesperson did not comment.

Mawarire, who is behind a popular social media movement called #thisflag, has called for another job boycott on Wednesday and Thursday. He has denounced violence and called for people to stay at home.

In a message posted on social media on Monday, Mawarire encouraged people to continue with the protest even if he is locked up.

More than 300 people, including six schoolchildren, were arrested over last week's protests, said Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, an NGO providing lawyers to Mawarire and other protesters.

Protests against alleged corruption, economic mismanagement and rights abuses have increased in recent weeks. Mugabe last week blamed the West and sanctions on Zimbabwe for the crisis in his country.
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