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Pastor Evan Mawarire jailed in crackdown tells ITV News of horrors he saw inside Zimbabwe's toughest prison

A renowned pastor imprisoned in Zimbabwe's crackdown during the on-going unrest has told ITV News of the horrors he witnessed in a cramped cell of 53 people.

Evan Mawarire faces up to 20 years in jail if he is found guilty of subverting the state by condemning the government on social media while calling for peaceful protest.

The 41-year-old activist was among more than 1,000 recently arrested in scenes of violence and a brutal crackdown that saw a dozen people killed.

But having been bailed from the nation's toughest jail after two weeks inside, Mr Mawarire told ITV News Africa Correspondent John Ray: "I've never seen the kind of injuries that I saw in prison."

Evan Mawarire wore the flag of his nation around his neck as he left its most feared top-security prison. Credit: ITV News

He said imprisonment meant being "in a cell, 9x5 metres and there's 53 of us there" including an 18-year-old man with a leg broken, Mr Mawarire claims, by those cracking down on the violence.

Mr Mawarire told ITV News: "Police beat him and jumped on the leg and threw boulders on it."

He said he saw two 16-year-old boys who "were lashed on their backs and on their legs" while those of adult age were left wailing like babies.

The crackdown on the streets in Zimbabwe.

"It is agonising to hear grown men cry out of pain from wounds they received during this time," he said.

ITV News filmed the destruction of an opposition neighbourhood in the capital Harare, while the first of hundreds of prosecutions began in the Zimbabwean courts.

Those convicted face long years behind bars as the nation's flirtation with freedom appears to be over under the rule of President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Bulldozers levelled opposition neighbourhoods in Zimbabwe. Credit: ITV News

Scores of activists are in exile or - as one told ITV News - hiding for their lives.

"I don't want to expose myself or my head will be on a chopping block," Moenda Mbera said.

Pastor Evan said Zimbabwe in 2019 is worse than in the years of Robert Mugabe's rule.

Evan Mawarire said: 'It is a tragedy and a shame that this is where we are as a nation.' Credit: ITV News

But he still had a message for his countrymen and women in these dark days.

"I really want to encourage Zimbabweans to stand strong," he said.

"We can't lose our voice. We lost it before. We can't lose it again."

More from ITV News Africa Correspondent John Ray: