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Malawi Ex-President Seeks to Overturn Treason Allegations

Malawi's former president is seeking to have the treason allegation leveled against him by President Bingu Wa Mutharika's administration thrown out of court. Attorneys for Ex-President Bakili Muluzi contend that the government has so far failed to start court proceedings to formally charge the former president three months after he was arrested. Ralph Kasambara is the lead attorney of former President Muluzi. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from the commercial capital, Blantyre that President Mutharika's administration is not serious about the allegations against Muluzi.

"What we are seeking from the court is that the present allegations and all charges against the former head of state Dr. Muluzi dropped. The basis for that motion is that since he was arrested by the police over three months ago now, the police have not preferred any treason charges against him…or indeed process the issue of bail. But they didn't do that and they kept on saying that they (police) were still investigating and afterwards they will determine whether to prefer charges of treason against him or not," Kasambara pointed out.

He said the court has made its ruling very clear on the specificity within which the government was supposed to formally charge the former president.

"Now the court had made an order that after three months if there was no movement of the case, we were free to approach the court to vary the bail condition. So, we think this is not the case of carrying the bail condition because when you talk of bail where somebody is accused of having committed an offense, you have got a case where Dr. Muluzi is not even accused of committing an offense," he said.

Kasambara said the former president's case to have the treason allegations dropped would be upheld by the court.

"Definitely the court will agree with us and I'm sure go ahead to make some scathing remarks against the prosecution because that is not how you do it. You can't arrest somebody, you don't prefer charges against him, and you don't take him before court for any charges and just stay three months doing nothing. And that is not prosecution, it is persecution," Kasambara noted.

He describes President Mutharika's government as unprepared to press treason charges against the former president.

"Let's understand here that the charges we are dealing with are not served from a shop, whatever charges of trying to usurp state powers and trying to take over government. And when they were asked in court if they had evidence, they brought in some anonymous letters, and the court quashed them there and then in Lilongwe. And now that was very telling to the prosecution that guys you are not up to it, if you are going to ride on this kind of evidence then forget it. Don't even dream of it. Now those were the charges leveled against the Brigadier generals, two weeks when they were arresting Muluzi surely they couldn't base it on the very same evidence that has already been quashed by the court," he said.

Kasambara described the government's move to charge the former president of treason as a fraught attempt to silence Mr. Muluzi.

"Now this is a desperate attempt by the current administration to cling to something that they understand does not make sense. And that amounts to political persecution rather than prosecution," Kasambara pointed out.

He said the former president would soon file a civil suit to serve as a deterrent for public officials to desist from abusing their offices.

"Once we have the court agree with us and the allegations thrown out, then we would go forward and file a civil action against the administration and against the government and the individuals that were involved. We think it is high time that individual public officers are there to enforce the law and not to abuse the law. I mean this is not the first time that the former president has been harassed by the state machinery. Just about last week he was denied his constitutional rights of conducting public rallies," he said.

Muluzi was alleged to have conspired with military officers and some executive members of the opposition United Democratic Front to overthrow President Bingu Wa Mutharika's administration. He was arrested in May on allegations of plotting to overthrow President Mutharika's administration shortly after returning to the country from a trip to the United Kingdom. But former President Muluzi has denied the allegations.