'Insult to the President' Malawi pretrial detainees released after 17 months awaiting trial

A Lilongwe court released five security guards arrested under insult laws after an application by the Malawi Human Rights Commission.

The five guards were originally charged with "uttering words calculated to insult, ridicule and show disrespect to the President", former president Bingu Wa Mutharika, who died in early April 2012.

The Malawi Daily Times reports that the five Securicor guards were arrested in December 2010 on their way to work. The occupants of a motor vehicle, all supporters of the former ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), alleged that the guards had showered insults on the then President, after the DPP supporters allegedly insulted the guards first. 

The charges were formulated in terms of Section 4 of the Protected Flag, Emblem and Names Act. The Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) brought an application on Friday 18 May 2012 for the release of the guards, as the state had failed to prosecute the five.

This was after state prosecutor Napier Chafikana had requested a further postponement until the return of the prosecutor assigned to the case, who was in China on official duties.

Lilongwe First Grade Magistrate Ritchie Gomani however ruled that a long time had passed without prosecution, and the Constitution requires that accused persons be tried within a reasonable time. He further ruled that the court had powers to discharge the accused.

MHRC Chrispine Sibanda said the five are free to sue the state for false imprisonment and violation of the right to liberty.





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