Harare – A court in Zimbabwe on Wednesday released on bail the pastor who last year led a surge of protests against President Robert Mugabe and is now facing subversion charges.
“It is ordered that (Evan Mawarire) be admitted to bail,” judge Clement Phiri said following Mawarire’s High Court bail application.
The court ordered Mawarire to surrender his passport and report twice a week to the police as well as paying a $300 (280 euro) bond. He will next appear in court on February 17.
Mawarire, an evangelical pastor, started the popular “This Flag” protest movement last year, becoming a figurehead of opposition to Mugabe’s regime.
Mawarire was arrested on Wednesday February 1 at Harare airport as he returned to the country after fleeing in July in fear for his life when Mugabe publicly denounced him.
Phiri described the prosecution’s case as “weak” while prosecutor Edmore Nyazamba insisted that Mawarire was “a celebrated terrorist” who would abscond if bailed.
Zimbabwe security forces cracked down last year after internet activism by the “This Flag” movement led to a series of anti-government protests and work strikes.
The national flag became a symbol of anti-government protests after the then little-known pastor posted a Facebook video in which he had the flag wound around his neck as he deplored the country’s worsening economic crisis.
Mawarire’s sister Teldah Mawarire tweeted that is was “great” that Evan had been released.
“Activists should not be persecuted in the first place. Free expression is a human right,” she wrote.