Mugabe critic Mawarire acquitted of public violence charges

File: Pastor Evan Mawarire, a fierce critic President Robert Mugabe has been acquitted on charges of committing public violence and disorderly conduct. Photo: Jekesai Njikizana / AFP

HARARE – A Zimbabwean court on Friday acquitted a pastor critical of President Robert Mugabe on charges of committing public violence and disorderly conduct.

The charge was linked to an address Evan Mawarire made during a demonstration by university students earlier this year.

Mawarire, who is also on trial for separate and more serious charges that he attempted to subvert the government, had been arrested in June after addressing medical students protesting against an increase in fees.

Magistrate Tilda Mazhande said state prosecutors had failed to establish a case against the 40-year-old.

READ: Outspoken Zimbabwean pastor not worried about re-arrest

Mawarire's High Court trial on subversion charges came to a close on Friday after eight state witnesses testified. His lawyer Harrison Nkomo said he would apply to the judge to have the case dismissed.

Meanwhile, police fired teargas during sporadic clashes with a group of protesters demonstrating against cash shortages and economic difficulties in central Harare.

Pressure group #Tajamuka called for the demonstration following shortages of fuel and panic buying of basic goods last weekend, which the government blamed on social media for spreading false rumours.

A reporter and photographer from the private Daily News newspaper covering the protest were beaten with batons and injured by police, Editor-in-Chief Hama Saburi told Reuters.

The two were admitted at a local private hospital.

Police spokeswoman Charity Charamba could not be reached for comment.

A Reuters witness also saw police firing into the air near an office mall in the central business district frequented by illegal foreign currency traders, forcing people to flee.

Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa on Thursday told parliament that the government published rules allowing police to arrest unlicensed foreign currency traders and those found guilty would face up to ten years in prison.

Most spots usually occupied by foreign currency dealers were deserted on Friday.

Reuters

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