HRDC hires lawyers for arrested protesters

Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has offered legal representation to people arrested during the July 4 to 5 protests to demand the resignation of Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah.

Police arrested 68 people nationwide in connection with the looting, theft and torching of property during the protests, but HRDC chairperson Timothy Mtambo said in an interview yesterday that their lawyers will be assessing circumstances of the suspects’ arrests to determine those deserving legal representation.

Protesters carry away a police signpost in Blantyre

He said: “All these people came out to demonstrate and demand the resignation of Jane Ansah. Some of these may have been involved in criminal acts while others many not have taken part in such acts.”

In the Northern Region, HRDC has identified private practice lawyer Wesley Mwafulirwa to handle the cases.

National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera said 16 people were arrested at Kamphata in Lilongwe, another eight at Lilongwe Old Town, 15 at Lilongwe City Centre, 18 in Mzuzu and 11 in Rumphi.

The demonstrations, which organisers said would be peaceful, turned ugly when some elements among the protesters looted and torched buildings. The worst affected areas were Lilongwe, Mzuzu, Rumphi and Karonga.

During the first protests on June 20 2019, police arrested 11 people in Mzuzu and charged them with breaking into a building and committing a felony therein as well as malicious damage. The suspects have all denied the charges and pleaded not guilty at the Mzuzu Magistrate’s Court.

MEC declared President Peter Mutharika of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) winner of the presidential race in the May 21 Tripartite Elections with 1 940 709 votes or 38.57 percent. He was trailed by Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera with 1 781 740 votes (35.41 percent) while Chilima came third with 1 018 369 votes or 20.24 percent.

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