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Zimbabwe protest organiser freed on bail, banned from posting on Twitter

Zimbabwe protest organiser freed on bail, banned from posting on Twitter
epa08560031 Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chin'ono (R) appears at the Harare Magistrates Courts in handcuffs, Zimbabwe, 22 July 2020. Chin'ono and 'Transform Zimbabwe an Opposition' leader Jacob Ngarivhume were arrested on 20 July 2020, both facing charges of 'incitement to participate in public violence', according to the police. Chin'ono posted videos and stories exposing corruption in the government. EPA-EFE/AARON UFUMELI

HARARE, Sept 2 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's High Court granted bail on Wednesday to an opposition politician detained after calling for anti-government protests in July over corruption and the worst economic crisis in more than a decade.

Jacob Ngarivhume was arrested along with journalist Hopewell Chin’ono on July 20, on charges of inciting violence. Ngarivhume had called for the protests on July 31 and Chin’ono wrote about the call.

Both men had been denied bail three times, but on Wednesday High Court judge Siyabona Musithu said the politician would be released from detention at a maximum security prison after paying 50,000 Zimbabwe dollars ($600).

The judge said a lower court had erred in denying Ngarivhume bail. Another judge will rule on whether to free Chin’ono later on Wednesday.

As part of bail conditions, Ngarivhume, who leads a small opposition party, Transform Zimbabwe, was barred from posting on Twitter until his case is finalised, must surrender his passport to the court and report to the police three times a week.

Prevented from protesting by restrictions the government says are needed to stop the spread of COVID-19, activists have used a Twitter hashtag #ZimbabweanLivesMatter to criticise President Emmerson Mnangagwa and encourage global pressure on his government.

When Chin’ono made a routine court appearance on Tuesday, he looked visibly frail and told reporters that he was unwell and doctors had taken a sample to test for COVID-19.

The detention of Ngarivhume and Chin’ono and arrest of dozens of activists has led to accusations that the government is persecuting the opposition, a charge the authorities deny.

The opposition has disputed Mnangagwa’s 2018 election, which took place after he replaced ruler Robert Mugabe in a coup, promising a break with Mugabe’s authoritarian style. (Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; editing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Philippa Fletcher)

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