Lilongwe Magistrate Court on Wednesday ordered that Manes Winnie Hale – known on Facebook as Abiti Manice Dawood – who was arrested by Police at Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe Tuesday morning on accusation of insulting President Peter Mutharika should be granted bail.
Malawi Police arrested Hale as she was about to catch a flight back to the US where she is based after being spotted attending some rallies by Vice-President Saulos Chilima-led United Transformation Movement (UTM).
After spending a night at Lumbadzi Police Station, Hake, 44 from Kambika Village T/A Kwataine Nctheu, who is a naturalised American citizen from Pevell Maryland and a practising nurse, has been charged of insulting the President contrary to Section 4 of the Penal Code – a ‘draconian’ law which has been branded by human rights defenders as archaic and inconsistent with the Constitution of Malawi.
She has claimed to be related to President Peter Mutharika whom she called ‘Uncle P’, saying her mother was a sister to the late first lady Ethel, who was the late president Bingu wa Mutharika’s first wife.
The arrest comes within days of President Mutharika publicly stating that Section 4 of the Protected Flag, Emblems and Names Act could be used to prosecute those he accused of insulting him.
She was granted bail on conditions to surrender her travel documents to Police and pay K100 000 bail bond cash.
The court also ordered her to start reporting to Police Headquarters every Friday.
Hearing of the case has bene set for September 6 2018.
Hale’s release by court sparked jubilant celebrations by UTM supporters at the court as the group pressed to see Hale and demanded her freedom.
Many commentators said the arrest of ‘Abiti Manice’showed that Malawian authorities had contempt for freedom of expression.
The state’s case centers on a Facebook posts she has been writing critical of the Mutharika administration including slurs.
Social –political commentator Idriss Ali Nassah who is a fierce critic of government said when a president arrests and threatens violence on people for saying things about him that he doesn’t like is dangerous to the lifeblood of democracy.
“Mutharika must then be prepared to arrest many more, because nobody is going to stop saying that he is too clueless, too old, too out-of-touch, too corrupt, too much of a K145 million thief, too tribalistic…to be trusted with leading Malawi again.
“The response to the targeted harassment of Manice Abiti William Dawood cannot be silence, or fear. In fact, Manice must wear this arrest with pride. It is a badge of honour. The optics are in her favour, too: she is the strong, fearless fighter arrested for speaking truth to power. ,” wrote Nassar.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :