Five activists on sedition rap granted bail

Freed on bail: The four citizens who protested that Mutharika is a dictator

Five citizens, who were arrested last Friday when they demonstrated in the capital Lilongwe carrying a banner calling President Bingu wa Mutharika dictator, were granted bail on Wednesday afternoon by Lilongwe Magistrate Court.

Billy Mayaya, Comfort Chitseko, Ben Chiza Mkandawire, Brian Nyasulu and Habiba Oman were charged with offences of conducting a demonstration without written police permission and of sedition.

But their lawyer Ralph Kasambara argued the charges were malicious and lacked merit in a democratic Malawi.

According to Kasamabara’s submission, conducting demonstration means it already happened and the police can’t use that as if they’re investigating the demonstration that happened.

On sedition, which is normally politically motivated offence to punish critics and opponents of governments in Malawi, Kasambara said it had no basis.

“They’ve a banner which they claim says Bingu is dictator, without going into details, that’s a fact that everybody already knows,” Kasambara told the court.

He also asked the court to order police to return the phones and laptops to the activists saying their investigations cannot be made on switched off phones and laptop.

The Magistrate granted them K10, 000 cash bail bond each on their own sureties. They have been ordered to report two weeks on Wednesdays to the police.

The activists were arrested on Friday after taking part in a small demonstration urging President Mutharika to hold a referendum calling for an early election.

They also demanded the resignation of Police Inspector General Peter Mukhito, and called for an investigation into his alleged involvement in the death of student activist Robert Chasowa last month.

Chasowa was found dead on the campus of  Malawi Polytechnic on 24 September in circumstances that were far from clear.

Members of his  anti-government student movement Youth for Democracy (YFD) have declared Chasowa was murdered because he was about to reveal incriminating information for the police.

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