Malawi ‘coup’ suspects freed on bail, travel documents surrendered

Malawi High Court has free on bail suspects who face treason charges for allegedly plotting to oust President Joyce Banda.

Defence lawyers for the group — which includes a government minister, several former ministers and the ex-president’s brother Peter Mutharika — urged a High Court judge to release the men on bail.

Lawyer Kalekeni Kaphale complained to the High Court that the “police are hiding information” from the defence, while insisting that treason was a “bailable offence”.

Prosecuting lawyer Ralph Mhone argued that the group, which retains hefty political clout, could “jeopardise on-going investigations”.

He told judge Ivy Kamanga that the state would need “14-21 days to finish investigations”.

But in her determination in the afternoon of Thursday, Justice Kamanga granted the suspects bail.

“A person who is arrested has the right to be released on bail unless otherwise stated and the applicants have applied to be released on bail. Therefore, the burden to prove otherwise does not lie with the applicant but with the State,” she said.

Judge Ivy Kamanga ruled that each suspect should also pay a bond of K250 000 (about $694) in cash, present two sureties each with a K7 million (about $19 444) non-cash bond, and for those resident in the Central Region to report to the National Police Headquarters fortnightly on a Friday for the first three months.

Those resident in the Southern, Eastern and Northern regions, the Judge said, should report to their respective regional police headquarters.

Kamanga also ruled that all the accused should surrender their travel documents to police until the conclusion of the case.

They were also ordered to surrender travel documents and report to police once in every two weeks.

The 12 are accused of trying to prevent then vice president Banda from assuming power after the death of president Bingu wa Mutharika on April 5 last year.

Last week an inquest ruled that Mutharika died of a heart attack on the way to hospital, but his body was flown to South Africa as would-be successors denied his death in a bid to buy time.

Peter Mutharika freed

Peter Mutharika freed

DPP supporters happy

DPP supporters happy

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