Lilongwe — The fraud charges slapped on two key figures leading post-election protests in Malawi have been dismissed as a ploy to intimidate anti-government activists.
Police arrested Gift Trapence, Vice Chairman of the Human Rights Defenders Coalition, and McDonald Sembereka, a member of the coalition, following days of demonstrations after the disputed election which were held on May 21.
The purported offences were allegedly committed during Trapence's role as director of the Centre for Development of People (CEDEP).
Some human rights groups argue the accusations are trumped up.
Among these is Amnesty International, which has demanded that authorities must release the pair stop clampdowns on the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.
"Organising and participating in peaceful protests is not a crime. Authorities must stop targeting dissenting voices and using politically motivated charges to suppress differing views," Muleya Mwananyanda, Southern Africa deputy director, said.
Demonstrators are calling for the resignation of the Chairperson of the Malawi Electoral Commission, Jane Ansah, accusing her of mishandling the election. Major cities of Lilongwe, Blantyre, Mzuzu and
Rumphi have been the scenes of post-election protests.
Some opposition claim the re-election of President Peter Mutharika and his Democratic Progressive Party was rigged. Government has slammed protesters for destabilising the country.
Mutharika narrowly won with 38,57 percent of the vote, ahead of Lazarus Chakwera (35,41 percent) and Saulos Chilima (20,24 percent).
The opposition have applied to the High Court to nullify the results and conduct another election.