Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) chairperson Timothy Mtambo has been locked up in Area 3 police cell after he handed himself to the law enforcers at around noon following two days “on the run.”
Lawyer Khumbo Soko representing HRDC clarified that a bail has not yet been granted to Mtambo but that the High Court in a pre-trial hearing has given a stay order that the case should be tried in Lilongwe.
Following the court order, Soko said Mtambo should not be transferred to Blantyre or any city other than Lilongwe .
Another lawyer Khwima Mchizi said Mtambo might spend the night in the cell and that they will wait until the charges are leveled against him.
High Court has also ordered that the Malawi police “immediately return” HRDC leaders Gift Trapence and Macdonald Sembereka to Lilongwe, where they were originally arrested on Sunday , and that their case be dealt with by the Lilongwe court.
Before Mtambo surrendered himself to police, there were running battles between cops and sympathisers and police had to use teargas to disperse the crowd.
Witnesses reported chaotic scenes.
After cooling down from teargas, Mtambo addressed members of the press where he said they were fighting for justice and insisted that they will go to State House on March 25 2020 to pressure President Peter Mutharika to sign election reforms bills passed by parliament.
The arrests comes after Mutharika denounced the planned protest at a Blantyre political rally and ordered police and Malawi Defence Force to stop the group.
“Nobody in this country is above the law. Mtambo cannot be bigger than the government. [Gift] Trapence, [MacDonald] Sembereka, [Billy] Mayaya you are not bigger than the government. Get my word, your time is up, the party is over, go and smell the coffee,” said Mutharika.
Opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera in a statement Monday gave the government 48 hours to release the rights activists. He said if they remained in custody by Wednesday he would hold his own march to state house.
Amnesty International criticised “an escalating crackdown against human rights defenders, activists, civil society leaders”.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :