Harare - A Zimbabwean pastor who spent nearly three weeks in jail for a protest against President Robert Mugabe was released on Thursday after his bail was significantly reduced, a lawyers' group said.
Patrick Mugadza, 45, staged a simple protest during a ruling party conference in Victoria Falls in the second week of December where, in a poster, he referred Mugabe to Bible verses. He held up a placard that read: "Mr President, the people are suffering. Proverbs chapter 21 verse 13."
The clergyman was unable to raise the $500 bail initially set by Magistrate Lindiwe Maphosa when he first appeared in court in the resort town to face charges of criminal nuisance.
On Thursday, the magistrate agreed to reduce the bail to $50 and Mugadza was able to pay it, said a spokesperson for the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR).
"Pastor Mugadza is now out. I just spoke to him a couple of minutes ago. The magistrate granted the application filed by his lawyer Thulani Nkala, reducing the amount from 500 dollars to 50 dollars bail," Kumbirai Mafunda told News 24.
"He is a free man right now," he added.
But the pastor, who lives 500 kilometres away in Kariba, will have to appear again in court for trial on Tuesday.
Mugadza was not daunted by what he went through, even though conditions in remand prison were so difficult that at one point he reportedly mounted a brief hunger strike.
Said Mafunda: "He told me that he stands for the people because he is a pastor... He remains unfazed."
The pastor has decided not to travel back to Kariba yet because of next week's court appearance.
His protest has revived memories of Zimbabwean activist Itai Dzamara, who staged a one-man protest against Mugabe in central Harare's Africa Unity Square. He was abducted from a barber's shop in March and has not been seen since.
Critics and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change blame Mugabe's government for his disappearance.