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Peter Mutharika to decide on death sentence

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By Isaac Salima:

President Peter Mutharika would wait for full completion of the trial process before deciding on whether to sign for the execution order of three people who were sentenced to death for murdering a person with albinism in Mchinji District.

Last week, the High Court sitting in Mchinji sentenced Douglas Mwale, Sophie Jere and Fontino Folosani to death for murdering a person with albinism in 2015.

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However, the country’s heads of State have never signed for the execution of murder convicts since 1994, as it is deemed a violation of human rights.

The President’s Press Secretary, Mgeme Kalilani, said they would wait for full completion of the trial processes regarding the case.

“Ordinarily, the convicts are given 21 days to appeal the ruling; so, in this case, there are two things that might happen. It is either that the convicts might appeal or not. It is only at that time that the issue of warrant of execution shall arise,” Kalilani said.

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Kalilani could not say if the President was ready to sign the execution order in the event that the convicts would not appeal or were not successful in the appeal case.

Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Bright Msaka, yesterday said the government’s position on death sentences was that it is the President’s prerogative.

“As a ministry, our job ends when we have achieved a conviction. What follows is beyond us because it is the prerogative of the President whether to sign or not. So in all the cases that the court has ordered a death sentence and the President did not sign for the death warrant, we did not feel betrayed [as a ministry] because that is for the President to decide,” Msaka said.

Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi President, Ian Simbota, said they hope that Mutharika would respect the law.

“We are an organisation that respects sanctity of life. We do not believe in killing but, in this case, the people that are being killed are Malawians who also wanted to live. These sentences have brought excitement among many people. We are all under the law of the land and we hope that the President will respect the rule of law,” Simbota said.

The court found Mwale, Jere and Folosani guilty of murdering Priscott Pepuzani.

The trio chopped off Pepuzani’s limbs and buried his body in a garden.

Mutharika’s government has been criticised for its alleged lukewarm response to the brutal attacks on persons with albinism who are targeted for their body tissues.

In March, Mutharika responded to the criticism by appointing a commission of inquiry to investigate the matter. Over 24 persons with albinism have been killed since 2014.

Former president Bakili Muluzi is on record to have said he could not sign for the execution order.

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