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Opposition Party Condemns Former Malawi President’s House Arrest

Police investigators in Malawi will be interrogating former President Bakali Muluzi today over allegations he plotted to overthrow President Bingu Wa Mutharika’s government. This comes after Muluzi was placed under house arrest Sunday shortly after returning from a trip to the United Kingdom. Muluzi, who is also the chairman and presidential candidate of the opposition United Democratic Front Party (UDF), denies any knowledge of plotting to overthrow the current administration.

The UDF has condemned the arrest of its presidential candidate as an attempt by the government to weaken the party ahead of next year’s general elections to ensure Mutharika’s victory. From the capital, Lilongwe, Muluzi’s attorney Fahad Assani tells reporter Peter Clottey that the former president’s arrest is a political gimmick.

“It is true that local time on Sunday about 20 minutes to four o’clock when he (Muluzi) landed at the Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe, the police arrested him immediately as he landed at the steps from the aircraft. And he was flown in the army aircraft to Blantyre. I was with him the aircraft until we reached his residence and after the search at his residence and in the end they found nothing to link him to anything with treason at all,” Assani noted.

He said the former president has been placed under house arrest pending police investigation.

“So, they have actually kept him under house arrest because they have changed the guards at his residence and that on Monday (today) they would be asking him as to whether he has any information to link him to the so-called treason, which some people were arrested for last week,” he said.

Assani said the former president was taken aback with the arrest.

“He is very surprised about the charge because he has all the information as he was in London about the arrest and if he had anything to do with it he would not have ventured home. He could have lived over there, knowing that he would be comfortable and stayed with his family. But since he is convinced there is nothing on his path and that he has a role to play in terms of fighting for his party in next year’s general elections, he has to face the consequences,” Assani pointed out.

He accused the government is trying to frustrate the opposition ahead of the elections.

“Actually the whole world has to know whatever has happened is nothing criminal. It is all just a political gimmick because the president is really fearing the elections. And Dr. Bakili Muluzi is a formidable fighter in terms of elections and he has the support of the masses. And we who live in Malawi know that President Mutharika would lose the elections, so the best thing he can do is to disrupt all these processes, which would lead to elections on May 9th 2009,” he noted.

Assani said the police would interrogate the former president today over his alleged involvement in the assassination plot.

“We are expecting that the police today will be coming to question him and then from there, whatever information they get they must use it for the charges. But what we are looking at is this whole move by government is meant to ensure that Bakili Muluzi does not campaign and we would fight tooth and nail to ensure that this case is thrown out of court immediately as possible so he can continue to campaign for the UDF,” Assani said.

He described as nonsense speculation that the former president is not eligible to stand for another term after previously having served two consecutive terms in office.

“We have done very thorough research, and we have done a lot of consultation with other lawyers across the country and we have all come to the conclusion that Dr. Muluzi is eligible to stand in this election after a break of five years. And that was why even government, they know that this is the position. That is why they are now bringing this treason charge,” he pointed out.