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‘Protester died due to assault’

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SEEKING JUSTICE—The
deceased’s mother, Gertrude Tembo

Initial findings show that the death of Justin Phiri, one of the 19 people who were arrested in Karonga District for allegedly causing violence during demonstrations, was due to assault.

Lawyer for the deceased’s family, Bracious Kondowe, Sunday said a postmortem which private pathologist Professor George Liomba conducted on Saturday established that Phiri had wounds.

“Preliminary results of the postmortem show that Justin Phiri died due to infected wounds [that were] not treated in proper time. There is also overwhelming evidence that the wounds were as a result of assault on the deceased,” he said.

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Kondowe of Kawelo Lawyers said a full postmortem report would be released in due course.

The remains of the 29 year-old Phiri were buried Sunday at Chihawuhawu Galera Shaba Village in Mzimba District.

Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) Chairperson, Timothy Mtambo, HRDC Northern Region coordinator, Happy Mhango, UTM secretary general Patricia Kaliati, UTM spokesperson Joseph Chidanti Malunga, Northern Regional governor Leonard Njikho were among those who attended the burial ceremony.

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In an earlier interview on Wednesday, mother to the deceased, Gertrude Tembo, said she felt her son was tortured in the cell and in Karonga during an encounter with Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldiers.

Malawi Human Rights Commission, through its executive secretary, David Nungu, said there was likelihood that the commission would handle this matter as part of a comprehensive case which they are conducting in Karonga District.

National Police deputy public relations officer, Thomeck Nyaude, said they are formalising an inquest on the matter.

A week ago, social media was awash with video clips and photos of MDF soldiers whipping, spraying water and drenching demonstrators who are alleged to have attacked the soldiers and Malawi Police Service officers.

About 10 MDF soldiers and 20 civilians sustained injuries after the demonstrations turned ugly leading to the arrest of the suspects including Phiri.

The rest of the suspects were released on bail hours after the death of Phiri last Tuesday.

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