Malawi cops on murder rap freed on bail: July 20 killings

The High Court in Blantyre on Monday granted bail to five police officers amongst the nine arrested in connection with the deaths of 20 people during the July 20, 2011 nationwide anti-government demonstrations.

The case was committed to the High Court last week Thursday by the Magistrates Court after formally charging the accused with murder.

Judge John Chirwa on Friday differed the ruling to today (Monday) after hearing bail application by defense lawyer, Lusungu Gondwe in chamber.

Granting the bail, the Justice Chirwa ordered each accused to pay K50, 000 cash bail bond and provide one surety bonded at K50, 000 non-cash each.justice

The court also ordered the officers, Paul Mussa, Kelvin Nyirenda, Benedicto Dzombe, Mahommed Kulusinje and Lemekezo Mikuti, all from Ndirande police sub-station, to surrender all their traveling documents.

“The applicants are required to report at Ndirande Police station twice a week-Monday and Fridays and notify the police each time they are about to leave Blantyre,” ordered the Judge.

Lawyer Gondwe said  he was satisfied with the bail ruling for the suspects who are yet to take plea on murder charges.

“Of course this is what we expected.”

According to Southern Region Police Public Relations Officer, Nicholas Gondwa, the law-enforcers arrested fellow officers a week ago seven months after recording caution statements from them.

Four officers who were arrested on Wednesday last week in Lilongwe appeared before Lilongwe Chief Resident Magistrate Ruth Chinangwa Thursday morning where their cases were committed to the High Court

The arrest of the nine police officers is in response to the findings of a Commission of Inquiry appointed by former president late Bingu wa Mutharika but whose results came out in July 2012 under President Joyce Banda’s administration.

The findings faulted police for the deaths of 20 people and called for the investigation and prosecution of those involved.

The inquiry also established that the police lacked sufficient non-lethal weapons which resulted in use of lethal weapons.

At least 20 people died during the anti-Bingu wa Mutharika demonstrations after being shot at by police as unarmed citizens took to the streets to protest against the country’s then worsening economic situation and fears that the government was restricting citizens’ rights.

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