Police in Zimbabwe have arrested 15 young people for demonstrating against President Robert Mugabe.
Five of the protesters, arrested Wednesday, were charged Friday in Harare Magistrate Court with resisting arrest and robbing two people who had passed by Africa Unity Square. Bail was set at $1,000 each.
The protesters’ attorney, Obey Shava of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, said the charges were trumped up to intimidate them.
“I know that most of them are not able to raise $50 as bail,” Shava said. “So effectively they have been denied bail.
“The charges are very weak. These are manufactured charges against my clients. I am sure you heard that I have raised a complaint that there was an attempted abduction against my client by law enforcement agents. It is not a surprise that they are now charged with robbery and theft. We are not surprised at all.”
Ten more activists at Africa Unity Square were arrested Friday.
Outside the court, other youths sang and vowed to continue demonstrating. They said they were fed up with Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence 36 years ago.
They named their movement the “16 Days Occupation,” as they planned to camp for 16 days and nights at Africa Unity Square, which overlooks Zimbabwe’s Parliament. The arrests began on the ninth day.
In all, about 200 people have camped out in the square. Most of them remained there Friday.
The movement is just the latest sign of mounting opposition to Mugabe, 92. Earlier this week, a group of church leaders issued a statement saying the country needed “transformation” to get out of its long-running economic problems.
One of those charged Friday was the brother of Itai Dzamara, an anti-Mugabe activist who has not been seen since March 2015. Rights groups said he was abducted by men believed to be state security agents.