Chakwera demands release of protesters

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… Wants Mutharika to apologise to US, teargas victims

Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera has condemned President Peter Mutharika for allowing Malawi Police to teargas protesters and has demanded the unconditional release of arrested demonstrators.

The MCP leader issued the demand on Saturday during a press briefing at the MCP headquarters.

On Thursday, police in Lilongwe arrested 18 protesting MCP members and fired teargas at the party’s headquarters, United States Embassy and, according to Chakwera, a school where classes were in session.

The US ambassador to Malawi Virginia Palmer was also caught up in the protests as she was meeting Chakwera at MCP offices when the police fired teargas.

Speaking this morning, Chakwera condemned the attacks and told government to release the protesters saying the constitution allows people or individuals to hold demonstrations.

“I condemn the arrest of peaceful protesters and demand their immediate and unconditional release. Furthermore, if any protesters are using violent means to achieve their ends or infringing on the rights of others, I call on the police to bring them to book without using violence or force.

“But the arrest of peaceful protesters and the shooting of unarmed civilians must stop immediately,” Chakwera said.

He added that Mutharika and the Malawi Police Service’s failure to apologise for the attacks and for the reckless way the police inadvertently committed an act of war is evidence that Malawi is under a lawless regime.

During the briefing, Chakwera rejected assertions that he encouraged Malawians to go to the streets saying he only invited them to protest peacefully on their way to court when the election case starts.

“What I have said is that when the court hearing starts, Malawians of all political parties who know that their vote was stolen should join me in marching peacefully to the court until a verdict is reached, for the law says that a verdict must be reached within 24 days.

“Those of you who have your own reasons for protesting now before the court hearing starts have a constitutional right to do so and a civic responsibility to do it peacefully, and so it is illegal for the police to stop or attack you for it and insensitive for any politician to suggest that you should delay your display of anger against injustice until it suits them,” he said.

On the court case, Chakwera said they have filed a petition to the High Court to nullify the fraudulent results that declared Mutharika winner of the elections because the party understands that the Judiciary is fair and independent, unlike the Malawi Electoral Commission.

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