Zimbabwe: church leaders arrested while praying

 Ten Bulawayo church leaders, arrested while praying for a detained colleague, outside police station in February, are to be charged again under the infamous Public Order and Security Act (POSA) Cynthia Mahwite reported in the Zimbabwe Standard on Sunday. The ten - Graham Shaw, Kevin O'Doherty, Peter Botright, Ron Marillier, Trevor Leonard, Palany Rojah, Davi Marolong, Barry Dickenson, John Stakesby Lewis and his wife Joan - had their charges earlier dismissed due to the prosecution's failure to build a case against them. However, last week, they received fresh summons ordering them to appear in court tomorrow. Shaw, who is a pastor with the Methodist church, told The Standard: "We have been issued with fresh summons and are required to appear in court on 25 September this year." If convicted, the group face a maximum sentence of ten years imprisonment, a $50 000 fine, or both. A month before the presidential elections, police using the POSA, denied Christians permission to hold a traditional prayer procession in Bulawayo. They then arrested Anglican priest Fr Scott, who was organising the prayer session and detained him at the central police station. Worried about his safety, the ten church leaders from the Catholic, Methodist, Anglican and Presbyterian congregations went to the station but were denied permission to see him. They were then arrested while praying for Scott and charged with contravening a section of POSA. The group were alleged to have "in concert unlawfully and intentionally contravened the POSA by blocking the movement of traffic in and out of the Bulawayo central charge office and disturbing the free movement of the public outside the charge office, thereby causing disorder and disturbing the public peace." President Mugabe has repeatedly attacked the churches, in particular the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe, accusing its Archbishop Pius Ncube of taking MDC party politics to the pulpit. In the article, a Roman Catholic layperson said: "It seems we no longer have freedom of worship. How can people be arrested for praying?" Others pointed out there was nothing sinister about Christians holding prayer meetings in Bulawayo and Mugabe was on a collision course with church leaders in the region. "Every year, we hold a major prayer procession starting at the Catholic church. After the service, the procession heads to the next church which has always been the Anglican church. This procession is normally attended by hundreds of people and is something we do every year, with an escort from the same ZRP," said another churchgoers. source: Zimbabwe Standard/ZW News

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