Pastor Evan Mawarire, who was arrested yesterday and initially charged with inciting public violence, was freed this evening after magistrate Vakayi Chikwekwe ruled that the decision to bring new charges against him was unconstitutional.
Prosecutors had changed the charge against Mawarire to a more serious one of attempting to overthrow a constitutionally elected government.
Mawarire, who rose to fame through his social media hashtag #This Flag, is credited with organising last week’s shutdown which paralysed the nation though the state media has rubbished the claim saying 73 percent of the workers turned up for work.
Human rights organisation Amnesty International yesterday said the arrest of Mawarire was a well-calculated plan to intimidate him and other activists ahead of another national shutdown supposedly scheduled for today.
“The arrest of Pastor Evan Mawarire appears to be a well-calculated plan to intimidate him and other activists ahead of the national shutdown organised for tomorrow in an attempt to suppress the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” Amnesty said in a statement.
Zimbabwe's leading opposition party, the Morgan Tsvangirai-led faction of the Movement for Democratic Change also condemned the police for arresting Mawarire.
“It is wholly uncalled for, and indeed draconian and primitive, for the ZRP to arrest Pastor Evan Mawarire for simply calling upon his fellow Zimbabweans to join him in a peaceful and non-violent stay away,” MDC-T spokesman Obert Gutu said.