Zimbabwe Court Frees Pastor Charged With Trying to Oust State

Supporters of 'ThisFlag campaign' kneel for prayer at the entrance of the Harare magistrate's court where pastor Evan Mawarire appeared on charges of inciting public violence following his arrest ahead of a planned mass job stayaway on July 13, 2016. The pastor leading Zimbabwe's new protest movement walked free from court on July 13, 2016 after charges against him of attempting to overthrow President Robert Mugabe's authoritarian government were thrown out. / AFP / Jekesai Njikizana (Photo credit should read JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP/Getty Images)

Photographer: Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images

A magistrate in Zimbabwe set free Bapist pastor Evan Mawarire, who had been charged with trying to overthrow President Robert Mugabe’s government.

“It is my finding that the National Prosecuting Authority cannot charge the accused,” Judge Vakai Chikwekwe said in a court in the capital, Harare. “I hereby refuse to put him on remand.”

The authorities changed the original charge against the 39-year-old preacher, who was arrested Tuesday, from inciting public violence to “subverting a constitutional government.” He was facing the possibility of 20 years in jail, Mawarire’s lawyer, Harrison Nkomo, told Chikwekwe. More than a thousand of Mawarire supporters, draped in Zimbabwean flags, held a candle-lit vigil outside the court.

Mawarire has posted regular videos on Facebook calling for non-violent protest against corruption, police brutality, poverty and the introduction of a local currency, planned for October. Mugabe’s administration has faced mounting public unrest as a cash shortage has undermined the government’s ability to pay its workers and consumers’ access to funds to pay their bills.

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