Anti-Mugabe pastor walks free after Zimbabwe court throws out case against him

Credit: ITV News

A pastor who led the biggest protest in Zimbabwe for decades has walked free after a court dismissed all charges against him.

Evan Mawarire, 39, was originally charged with inciting violence before his charges were upgraded to "plotting to bring down an entire government" at court today.

However after a short hearing magistrates ruled that prosecutors did not present the case properly and that upgrading the charge made against him was illegal.

"It's my finding that the National Prosecuting Authority cannot charge the accused for (the) first time in court without charges being read out to him," Magistrate Vakayi Chikwekwe told a packed courtroom.

Outside court, the freed pastor spoke to his supporters while draped in the Zimbabwe flag.

Earlier, Zimbabwe anti-riot police guarded the entrance to Harare magistrate court where the pastor appeared.

Thousands of his supporters demonstrated outside the courtoom, singing, waving flags and chanting.

Who is Pastor Evan Mawarire?

Pastor Evan Mawarire Credit: Reuters

Pastor Evan Mawarire is the founder of the #ThisFlag movement, a group leading protests against corruption and police brutality in Zimbabwe.

He has demanded the sacking of corrupt ministers, the payment of delayed salaries and the lifting of roadblocks that residents say are used by police to extract bribes.

Why are people protesting?

Robert Mugabe, 92, has led the former British colony since independence in 1980.

Since then it has gone from being one of the continent's most promising economies to being a country mired in economic crisis with a reputation for rights abuses.

Last week Pastor Mawarire was at the forefront of the protests which closed down businesses, shops and schools.

Further shutdowns are planned this week with Mawarire urging supporters to go ahead with further 'stay at home' demonstrations to protest the worsening economic situation.