Zimbabwe’s state prosecutor on Wednesday charged pastor Evan Mawarire with attempt to overthrow the state via his internet video campaign that inspired protests against President Robert Mugabe last week.
Mawarire who leads the #ThisFlag movement appeared in a Harare court on Wednesday after spending the night in police cells while officers searched his house, church and office in the capital.
His lawyer, Harrison Nkomo accused the state of ambushing the defence by changing the charges against his client without prior notification.
Mawarire has applied for bail after his new charge which carries a 20-year-jail term.
A team of about 100 lawyers turned up at the court earlier on Wednesday to represent Pastor Mawarire. The trial expected to have started at 8:30am local time had not started as at 1pm local time.
More than a thousand Zimbabweans besieged the Harare magistrate court on Wednesday in solidarity with Pastor Mawarire, local media report. The supporters have been singing and waving the Zimbabwean flag in front of the court.
They have held prayer sessions for the activist whose bail hearing has traveled into the night and vowed to stay through the night with a vigil.
Several other Zimbabweans are showing solidarity on social media especially Twitter where they are tweeting using the hashtag #ThisFlag started by Pastor Mawarire.
If you are comfortable with the situation in Zim right now, you're what's wrong with the world tbh #ThisFlag— P A T T Y (@tricia086) July 13, 2016
Police in riot control gear have been at the court all day managing the huge crowd.
Meanwhile, a call for another round of stay away protests on Wednesday according to the Reuters news agency, was not heeded.
Reuters reports that queues built up normally with buses and taxis ferrying people to work in the capital. Banks and state-run hospitals were reportedly open as well as public schools which are conducting their mid-year examinations.
Although it is not clear why the protest has failed to gathered momentum this week, a few factors including the arrest of the protest leader Pastor Mawarire and a statement threatening to unleash the “full wrath of the law” on the ‘instigators’ of the protest may have contributed.
BBC Africa (@BBCAfrica) July 12, 2016