HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — A Zimbabwean court has ordered the release of an anti-government pastor arrested for circulated videos highlighting the country’s worsening economic problems.
Magistrate Elisha Singano Tuesday freed Evan Mawarire saying prosecutors had failed to bring the outspoken pastor before a court within 48 hours as prescribed by the law.
Police arrested Mawarire after a church service he presided Sunday. He was charged with subverting a constitutionally elected government.
This was after he posted videos that include images of long lines of people waiting for fuel Saturday. In the videos, Mawarire accuses the government of 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe of being insensitive to problems affecting the once-prosperous southern African country.
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On Monday he appeared before a High Court judge on a separate subversion charge linked to earlier anti-government campaigns.
Mawarire fled to the United States last year after his involvement in protests. He returned in February and was charged with subversion, which carries a maximum of a 20-year jail term.
Mawarire rose to prominence in 2016 when he used social media to organize the country’s biggest anti-government protests in a decade.
A cabinet minister in charge of the police Sunday warned against using social media to “cause alarm and despondency.”