Charges withdrawn against controversial street preacher

Charges withdrawn against controversial street preacher

CALGARY (CP) – To refrains of ‘‘praise the Lord,’’ a controversial Calgary street minister has walked out of a courtroom a vindicated man.

Artur Pawlowski was in provincial court Monday where three charges, including two criminal allegations, were withdrawn by the Crown.

Prosecutor Gloria Froese said she conducted a review of the evidence and found there was ‘‘no reasonable likelihood of conviction.’’

Pawlowski, who runs the Street Church ministry, was arrested last Aug. 16 while praying near participants in the Calgary Fringe Theatre Festival. He was charged with obstructing a peace officer and causing a disturbance, as well as an offence under the Petty Trespass Act of failing to leave land when told to do so.

Videotape of the incident taken by a Pawlowski supporter shows the minister standing on a public sidewalk calmly asking police why he is being harassed. He was then arrested for obstruction, handcuffed and detained overnight.

Following his court appearance, Pawlowski said he felt vindicated.

‘‘The decision of the justice system to dismiss all charges against me reinforces my belief that Canada is governed by the rule of law and is not a police state,’’ he said.

‘‘This morning I didn’t know if I’m coming home and the only terrible crime I did was reading the Bible.’’

He said Canadians should not have to worry police will ‘‘come and arrest you for reading the word of God.’’

‘‘I will keep reading my Bible publicly, hopefully without the fear that I will be arrested for that crime,’’ he said, before supporters broke into a rendition of Amazing Grace.

Pawlowski’s criminal lawyer, Maureen McConaghy, said it was important for the authorities to drop the charges and recognize her client’s constitutional rights.

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