Harare Magistrates court on Tuesday 26 September 2017 set free His Generation Church leader Pastor Evan Mawarire after ruling that the State had violated his rights by failing to bring him to appear before the court within 48 hours as enshrined in the country’s new Constitution.
Mawarire was arrested by some Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers on Sunday 24 September 2017 and charged with subverting constitutional government as defined in section 22 (2) (a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, Chapter 9:23.
The charge emanates from a video, which the clergyman allegedly circulated on social media on Saturday 23 September 2017 protesting against the country’s worsening economic crisis.
But Mawarire, who was brought to appear before Harare Magistrate Elisha Singano, where the State filed an application for his placement on remand on the fresh charges of plotting to overthrow President Robert Mugabe’s government, was set free on Tuesday 26 September 2017 after his lawyer Harrison Nkomo of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights protested against the move by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) represented by Tapiwa Kusema.
In his application, Nkomo argued that the state had willfully trampled upon the clergyman’s fundamental rights to bring him before a court as soon as possible and not later than 48 hours after the arrest took place or the detention began as provided for under section 50 (2) (b) of the Constitution. In addition, Nkomo protested that the state had not petitioned the court to secure an order to extend Mawarire’s detention beyond the 48-hour period in compliance with the provisions of Section 50 (3) of the Constitution.
Kusema from the NPA had attempted to argue that the state had faced some challenges in bringing Mawarire to appear before the Magistrates Court for initial remand proceedings as he was standing trial at the High Court on the same charges of subverting constitutional government in relation to an offence which he allegedly committed in July 2016 and in January 2017.
However, Magistrate Singano agreed with Nkomo’s submissions and ruled that the ZRP officers had failed to comply with the provisions of the Constitution and ordered the immediate release of Mawarire from police custody.
Meanwhile, Mawarire’s trial in the High Court, which began on Monday 25 September 2017 on two counts of subverting constitutional government as defined in section 22 (2) (a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, Chapter 9:23 or alternatively incitement to commit public violence as defined in section 187 (1) (a) as read with Section 36 (1) (a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, Chapter 9:23 will resume on Thursday 28 September 2017 after Justice Priscilla Chigumba postponed the matter to allow the state to deal with the fresh charges of plotting to overthrow President Mugabe’s government. However, the state suffered a major blow as Magistrate Singano late on Tuesday 26 September 2017 set free Mawarire after ruling that his rights were violated.