High Court in Lilongwe on Friday extended bail for three officials of the main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) arrested last month for allegedly plotting a coup through a WhatsApp conversation.
MCP executive member Ulemu Msungama, spokesperson Jessie Kabwila and the party’s legal adviser Peter Chakwantha had their bail for alleged treason and sedition charges extended to April 29, 2016 pending police thorough investigation on the matter.
Lawyer Gustav Kaliwo, who is also MCP Secretary General, expressed worrisome over the police delay to formally charge the opposition politicians, saying they are facing political harassment and intimidation through false allegations.
“As you remember that their bails were extended to this day March 18, 2016, so, we came expecting that we would be told when this matter is going to be prosecuted in court. Sadly, we have been told that the bail has been extended up to April 29, 2016. So will wait the police to tell us the date when my clients will be taken to court to prove the alleged treason and sedition charges.
“Honestly, we are disappointed because you can’t expect the police just arrest someone without proper evidence against them. By now we could have already in court. Currently, we are monitoring the situation closely as the move is just there to harass and intimidate us”, worried Kaliwo.
Police arrested the trio after they received a tip about a WhatsApp chat discussing how to unseat President Peter Mutharika.
One of the WhatsApp conversations says that PresidentMutharika can be taken down the same way former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was removed from power.
Generally, conversations centered on ways to address social and economic problems Malawi currently faces.
Kabwira, a legislator for Salima North West Constituency, who was cheered up by her constituents and party members (who carried banners disputing treason charge) Kabwilasaid she feels some of the WhatsApp messages were altered.
“I am not saying I am not part of it. I can recognize some of the words [I had written] but some of them really sound doctored. WhatsApp messages flow. [But here] the data is funny and some of the places that were supposed to be a name were clearly doctored,” said Kabwila.
Kabwila hinted that the fight for poor people who are currently starving for food shortages rages on.
She faulted the police for being used by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) leadership as a political tool to intimidate them for dissenting views on national issues saying her arrest has affected daily undertakings as a legislator and researcher.
The MCP spokesperson also disclosed that the bail has been softened to allow her travel freely as an MP and Chairperson of the women Caucus in Parliament.
The DPP said it had intelligence information that MCP with assistance from the international community was plotting to unseat president Mutharika by June this year. MCP officials denied those allegations.
Political analyst Vincent Kondowe questioned the move to arrest the opposition members on coup allegations, saying “ these are only politically motivated arrests and they only serve political expediency and that there is no substance in them after all.”
Kondowe said the suspects were only exercising their constitutional freedom of expression.
“If you look at substantive issues on that particular conversation, they border on freedom of expression that people are reacting and evaluating their government which they elected on trust. So the conversation in itself does not constitute treason at all,” he said.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :