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Treason offence under scrutiny

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Ruling authorities could be twisting the arms of the police to arrest some Malawians on treason charges as a way of silencing them.

This is the view of two legal experts and a political analyst in the wake of last week’s arrest of Malawi Congress Party (MCP) officials for suspected treason and sedition.

The observation comes on the back of the multiparty Malawi being littered with treason cases against some high-profile Malawians, most of them politicians.

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In some instances, the cases have died a natural death.

In instances where the cases have been concluded, the state has ended up paying heavy compensations to those accused.

The Malawi Law Society (MLS) says it is high time Malawians demanded answers as to why a lot of resources have been spent on sedition and treason offences without any appreciable progress being registered.

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MLS Honorary Secretary, Khumbo Soko, said the trend points to an unprincipled use of law enforcement powers by the state.

“The history of prosecution of treason offences in this country, especially since 1994, is rather troubling. That we have had a lot of

Brown Mpinganjira

In 2001, veteran politician Brown Mpinganjira, who at that time had moved out of the United Democratic Front (UDF) and formed National Democratic Alliance pressure group and businessman Sudi Sulaimana were arrested on treason charges.

The charges were subsequently dropped.

The coup plotters who included some two low-ranking soldiers had been accused of having planned to simultaneously take over state-run radio and television stations where Sulaimana would have addressed the nation.

Cassim Chilumpha

In 2006, the then Vice President Cassim Chilumpha, businessmen Yusuf Matumula, Rashid Nembo and outspoken politician Kamlepo Kalua were also charged with treason and conspiracy to murder.

Chilumpha’s case, in which the government engaged British lawyers, is still in court while the charges for others were dropped.

Joseph Chimbayo

In 2008, former Army Commander late Joseph Chimbayo, former Police Inspector General Joseph Aironi, former Blantyre City Mayor John Chikakwiya, former UDF official Kennedy Makwangwala, former commissioner of Police Mathews Masoapyola were arrested on treason charges.

The State failed to prosecute them and in 2011 they pocketed K4.5 million each as compensation.

Peter Mutharika

In 2013, the current President, Peter Mutharika and 11 other high-profile figures were charged with treason for allegedly trying to prevent Joyce Banda succeeding late Bingu wa Mutharika in April 2012.

The case was dropped due to the immunity that the President enjoys while in office.

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