Zimbabwe protest pastor in bail now faces violence charges


The Zimbabwean pastor at the heart of a protest movement against President Robert Mugabe was freed on bail, two days after being arrested at a student rally and charged with promoting violence.

Evan Mawarire, whose #ThisFlag movement last year led to the biggest anti-government demonstrations in a decade, walked into the magistrate’s court carrying a Bible and stood as the charges, including disorderly conduct, were read to him.

The 40-year-old preacher is due to stand trial in September on separate charges of plotting to overthrow the government and insulting the national flag.

He did not speak on Wednesday, but his lawyer told reporters after his arrest he denied the new charges. He left the room as officials prepared release papers. His next court appearance is set for July 19.

Police arrested Mawarire on Monday at the University of Zimbabwe where he addressed medical students demonstrating against an increase in fees. The students were expelled from campus hostels on Tuesday.

Mawarire used social media to speak out against corruption, injustice and poverty.

Amnesty International called him a “prisoner of conscience” after his detention.
“His arrest unfortunately shows he continues to be targeted by a government hell-bent on criminalising him for exercising his rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” the rights group said.