State changes prosecutor, date in Trapence case

The State has changed its prosecutor and adjourned to September 11 a case in which human rights activists Gift Trapence and McDonald Sembereka are answering five charges, including operating a non-registered non-governmental organisation (NGO) and fraud.

The new prosecutor is Nepier Chafikana who is head of prosecutions in the Malawi Police Services (MPS) and is taking over from his deputy Moja Phiri.

In an interview after a court appearance on Tuesday, Chafikana said he has taken over the case because Phiri is “committed to other issues”.

Trapence (L) coming out of court on Tuesday with HRDC
chairperson Timothy Mtambo

He said: “I was away and I need to go through the case file; hence, asking for the adjournment. Now that investigations are over, I am also going to see whether we need to stick to the current charges against the accused or I will have to bring in new charges according to the information that we have.”

 According to the charge sheet, Trapence and Sembereka are answering charges of fraud other than false pretence contrary to Section 319(A) of the Penal Code, forgery of official document contrary to Section 358 of the Penal Code, uttering false document contrary to Section 360 of the Penal Code, money laundering contrary to Section 42 (1) (c) of the Financial Crimes Act no 14 of 2017 and operating an NGO namely Mango LGBTI without registering with the NGO Board contrary to Section 20(1) as read with Section 34 of the Non-Governmental Organisation Act.

Defence lawyer Khwima Mchizi said in an interview after the case they do not have an issue with the shifting of  dates to September 11 when the two are expected to take plea.

He said: “When we come back on 11th, charges will be read out against the accused and pleas will be taken and then the court will give direction on what will happen after that.”

Trapence is vice-chairperson of the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) which has been leading demonstrations against the outcome of the May 21 Tripartite Elections. Sembereka is also a member of HRDC. National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera earlier dismissed concerns that the arrest was politically motivated.

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