Lilongwe Magistrate Court has grated bail three prominent human rights activists who were detained this week for planning to hold protests aimed at shutting down presidential residences.
Two members of the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) — vice chairperson Gift Trapence and member Macdonald Sembereka — were arrested Sunday after saying they would organize demonstrations and HRDC chairperson Timothy Mtambo who surrendered to police Tuesday, were on Thursday ordered to pay a cashbond of K200 000 each and non cash surety of K2 million each.
Further, Chief Resident Magistrate Violet Chipao ordered the three to be reporting to police headquarters at Area 30 in Lilongwe every Friday.
Among the bail conditions is that the three activists should surrender all their travel documents.
But an interesting condition deeming gaging order is that the activists have been ordered “not to disturb the peace or incite others to do so of the State Houses.”
Disturbing the peace, also known as breach of the peace, is a criminal offense that occurs when a person engages in some form of unruly public behavior, such as fighting or causing excessively loud noise. When a person’s words or conduct jeopardizes another person’s right to peace and tranquility, he or she may be charged with disturbing the peace.
This conditions is deemed gagging to silence Mtambo, Trapence and Sembereka who face charges of inciting people to close state residences, under Section 124 of the Penal Code.
The international human rights body Amnesty International said the arrests are a government attempt to crack down on dissenting views.
The HRDC members were planning to pressure President Peter Mutharika to sign electoral reform bills paving the way for fresh elections after Malawi’s constitutional court nullified last May’s polls. The court cited massive irregularities in the vote, which saw Mutharika reelected.
The electoral bills propose a date for fresh elections and procedures to follow in case of runoffs.