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Regional body demands release of activists

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Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN) has demanded the immediate release of Gift Trapence and MacDonald Sembereka, two Human rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) members who were arrested on Sunday.

In a statement released on Sunday, SAHRDN Regional Programmes Manager, Washington Katema, calls on authorities in Malawi to release the two, saying their arrest is unlawful.

“As SAHRDN we [have] reasonable apprehension and fear for the lives of the arrested human rights defenders given that anything is possible to be done against them while detained including torture, inhuman and other degrading treatment as well as possibilities of slow poisoning.

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“This is more so, in this context where the President of Malawi Peter Mutharika has publicly declared HRDC as a terrorist organisation, and at a rally on Sunday, the President is alleged to have instructed police and members of his Democratic Progressive Party to come hard on HRDC leadership,” the statements reads.

Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives Acting Executive Director, Sylvester Namiwa, described the arrest of the activists as political and demanded their release.

CSOs in the Northern Region, Church and Society of the Livingstonia Synod of the CCAP, Youth and Society (Yas) and Pace are organising demonstrations tomorrow in Mzuzu to force the government to release Trapence and Sembereka.

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At a press briefing held in Mzuzu, Church and Society Executive Director, Moses Mkandawire, said they would serve Mzuzu City Council a notice of the demonstrations.

Mkandawire, flanked by Yas Executive Director, Charles Kajoloweka and Gibson Kamanga of Pace, said the arrest of the two leaves a lot to be desired.

“The State has to release the two today [Monday] or tomorrow [today] unconditionally because these speak on behalf of the people and we personally believe that they did not commit any crime that would warrant an arrest. We are also saying that if these colleagues of ours are not released within the time, then we will have mass mobilisation on Wednesday to demand the release of the two,” he said.

Malawi Police Service obtained a warrant of arrest against the three HRDC leaders in relation to statements made during their press briefing in Lilongwe on March 6 2020.

The trio is accused of breaching provisions of section 103 of the Police Act for planning to demonstrate at State residences.

Meanwhile, HRDC has issued a statement calling for the public to gather at Lilongwe Police stations for vigils until the two are released.

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