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HRDC trio out on bail

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Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) leaders, Timothy Mtambo, Gift Trapence and MacDonald Sembereka have been granted bail after they were arrested for planning to shut down State residences on March 25 to force President Peter Mutharika to assent to electoral reform bills.

Lilongwe Chief Resident Magistrate, Violet Chipao, said the State failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt why the court should still detain the accused who are answering the charge of soliciting to shut down State residences.

Chipao said the State failed to bring substantive evidence of how the accused will interfere with investigations and how the State will fail to complete investigations if the suspects are released.

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She added that while the State argued that the accused, if released, may interfere with evidence, it has not shown the identities of the witnesses and the relationship with the accused.

“Nothing more has been given to the court apart from indicating that the reporters [who attended HRDC’s press briefing on March 6] and police officers are the ones to testify,” she said.

The magistrate has since given bail to the three with conditions attached, including that they should pay cash surety of K200,000 each and surity of non-cash bond of K2 million each.

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The court also ordered the accused to surrender their travelling documents, avoid committing another offence while on bail and report to the police every Friday.

News of the release of the trio excited HRDC followers who cheered and chanted songs of praise.

Speaking after the court adjourned Mtambo said the arrest has empowered them to fight on.

“The struggle is going to get deep and every enemy of success and progress should be prepared. A new beginning is coming and it is now,” he said.

Lawyer representing HRDC, Khwima Mchizi, said the accused are law abiding citizens and will continue with their activities.

“Holding demonstrations is a Constitutional right,” he said.

The HRDC team later addressed their sympathisers around Lilongwe District Council premises where they encouraged them to continue fighting for change.

The court has since adjourned the case to April 9 and 10 2020 for full trial.

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