No DPP consent for activists, call to drop case

The trial of five Malawian human rights defenders, Ms Habiba Osman and Messrs Billy Mayaya, Brian Nyasulu, Ben Chiza Mkandawire and Comfort Chitseko,  has been adjourned to Janury 13 2012 at the Lilongwe Magistrate Court after state prosecutors did not obtain  consent from Director of Public Prosecution to proceed witht the case.

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

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

The activists in court on December 19, 2011

But in court on Monday, prosecutors did not obtain consent from the Director of Public Prosecution to proceed with the charges.

This prompted defence lawyer Wapona Kita to ask the court to dismiss the charges for state’s lack of committment in prosecuting.

Magistrate Beza adjourned the matter to January in which the state must start the trial or the matter be discharged.

In the court, the activists were given solidarity by the presence of Malawian barrister based in Manchester, UK, Tamika Ndovi.

Front -Line call

Ireland-based Front Line Defenders is asking Mutharika administration to unconditionally drop the case.

Front Line believes that the prosecution of the human rights defenders is directly related to their legitimate work in defence of human rights, particularly with regard to their attempts to draw public attention to the accountability of the authorities for human rights abuses.

“Front Line remains deeply concerned at the deteriorating situation for human rights defenders in Malawi,” says the foundation’s director Mary Lawlor in a statement.

Lawlor says Front Line has reported on a number of  attacks against human rights defenders in Malawi detailing the ongoing crackdown  and campaign against those who have been vocal in calling for changes within the  current government.<

She says it is surprising that up to now, no person has been prosecuted for criminal offences such as arson attacks, issuing death  threats or carrying out violent assaults against human rights defenders.

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