Pastor Mawarire could face re-arrest under new charges

In Zimbabwe, the leader of last week’s protests and stay-aways Pastor Evan Mawarire was released from court late last night, after being charged with treason.

A magistrate refused to hear the case, saying the charges had been brought illegally, while over two thousand supporters waited outside that court room.

When the magistrate asked which lawyer represented Mawarire yesterday, some fifty lawyers put up their hands.

Dr Alex Magaisa law lecturer from the University of Kent and former advisor to Morgan Tsvangirai speaks to Stephen Grootes about Mawarire's release.

He says he was not surprised the leader was released. These are the Zimbabwean regime's tactics, he says.

They throw in a charge like that, treason, subverting constitutional government against dissenters, to frighten people, but they know very well the charges won't stick.

Dr Alex Magaisa law Lecturer University of Kent

Grootes asked Dr Magaisa about the magistrate's ability to act independently as he did.

This matter was political... there may have been a few political fingers influencing the process.

Dr Alex Magaisa law Lecturer University of Kent

Dr Magaisa believes the state was concerned about the crowd's reaction if the pastor had not been released.

He says Zimbabwe want to maintain western financial support and avoid losing investors. So the government used this to demonstrate their respect for the rule of law.

The economic factors are going to be critical.

Dr Alex Magaisa law Lecturer University of Kent

Zanu-PF are predictable if one goes on past conduct, says Dr Magaisa. They may well re arrest Pastor Marariwe, on different charges as they have done in the past. This is not over yet, he says, and there will be further repression.

Daily Maverick journalist Simon Allison joins Stephen Grootes on the line about the very latest.

It is a very youth driven movement, which given Zimbabwe's demographic bodes well because it is a very young country. Most of the protesters were youth

Simon Allison. Daily Maverick

Many young people, members of the legal fraternity, vendors, and several high profile religious leaders made up the large crowd outside court.

He cannot be arrested again on the same facts, so if they do re-arrest him, they will need to come up with new case.

Allison says this was an unprecedented show of support for Mawarire.

This was something that Zimbabwe has not seen, a mass protest in support of an individual, and they will have to think very carefully before charging him again, and making him even more of a martyr than he already is.

Simon Allison. Daily Maverick

Listen to the interviews below:

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