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CSOs condemn ‘intimidatory’ arrest

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By Jameson Chauluka:

HAS NOT SAID ANYTHING—First Lady Mutharika

Civil society organisations (CSOs) under the banner Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) have condemned the arrest of a man for allegedly posting a meme on Facebook which juxtaposed First Lady Gertrude Mutharika and a movie cartoon character, Rango.

HRDC Chairperson, Timothy Mtambo, described the arrest of Tumpale Mwakibinga as an attempt to intimidate people from expressing thoughts in creative ways.

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“In this case, the one who was supposed to complain to police would be the designer of the glasses not the first lady. The police have a lot of more important cases they should be looking at such as the killing and abduction of people with albinism,” Mtambo said referring to the meme that had a caption: “When the designer has watched too much Rango”,

Meanwhile, Blantyre First Grade Magistrate Court has set today for a ruling on bail application made Tuesday.

Mwakibinga has been charged with insulting the modesty of a woman, cyber violation and offensive communication but he denied all the charges.

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Applying for bail, Mwakibinga’s lawyer Gloria Mbendera said all the alleged offences were bailable.

“First of all, Section 42 (2e) provides for a right to bail to all accused persons. The State has not demonstrated how releasing him would jeorpadise their investigations. Besides, he has already demonstrated that he is a law-abiding citizen by presenting himself to court when he heard that they were looking for him,” she said.

But Regional Prosecutions Officer, Dickens Mwambazi, who is representing the State, asked the court to allow the State keep Mwakibinga for seven more days for them to complete investigations.

“The matter is under investigation as we have to establish how the communication was made, among others,” he said.

Mwambazi could, however, not comment on the submission by Mbendera that Mwakibinga presented himself to police, saying he was only told that the police had arrested him.

Before adjourning the matter, Magistrate Soka Banda posed a series of preliminary questions on the state’s case which Mwambazi declined to answer, saying they were bordering on evidence and that the matter was still being investigated.

“You know some cases are accentuated because of the personalities that are involved. RPO [ Regional Prosecutions Officer] you are saying that he put that status so that the First Lady should see? Are you sure the First Lady has access to his [Mwakibinga’s] WhatsApp page? I don’t know but did the First Lady come to Blantyre Police to complain of the status? Is this the first time we are seeing such pictures on social media?” queried Banda.

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