Former Malawi leader says coup-plot case a fabrication

Former Malawi president Bakili Muluzi has accused the government of fabricating a treason case against him for political reasons and demanded that a court give him bail unconditionally.

Muluzi, the opposition United Democratic Front’s (UDF) candidate in the 2009 presidential election, made the charge in a court filing on Tuesday, two days after he was arrested on suspicion of being involved in a plot to overthrow the government.

He has been held under house arrest since Sunday when he was taken into custody at the airport in the capital, Lilongwe. Police have raided his home and interrogated him.

“I believe that the state would like to use trumped-up charges of treason to harass me, deny me the opportunity to conduct political rallies and meetings and ... intimidate my lawyers so that I am defenceless,” Muluzi said in the filing.

Muluzi’s bail hearing will be held on Thursday, defence lawyer Fahad Assani said on Wednesday.

One of Muluzi’s lawyers is also being investigated in connection with the case, a police official said without identifying the lawyer.

Five members of Muluzi’s UDF and three army generals were arrested last week on suspicion of being part of a plot to oust President Bingu wa Mutharika and put Muluzi into power.
They have been released on bail.

The arrests have prompted protests by UDF supporters who have clashed with police. One person has been killed and scores arrested.

“The arrest [of Muluzi] is bad timing and may fuel dissent,” Mustapha Hussein, a political analyst in Malawi, said.

Muluzi remains popular in the impoverished Southern African nation for ending the rule of long-time strongman Hastings Kamuzu Banda in 1994 and paving the way for democracy. He held power until 2004 when he was replaced by wa Mutharika.

The two, however, have fallen out over the president’s anti-corruption drive, which has targeted some UDF members, including Muluzi. Wa Mutharika quit the UDF to form the Democratic Progressive Party, taking with him many UDF MPs.

The opposition objected to the floor-crossing and is trying to have the president impeached. It also is threatening to block passage of the country’s budget.—Reuters

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