Former Malawian Attorney General Held in Police Custody

On Monday 13th February outspoken lawyer Ralph Kasambara was arrested in Blantyre for allegedly assaulting a number of men. He in turn claims that men arrived at his  legal office, Ralph & Arnold, with the intent to kill him by burning down the office and that he was merely acting in self defence.  Mr Kasambara served as the Attorney General for President wa Mutharika’s first term in office and was removed in May 2006. He has been an outspoken critic of the administration since his removal and was a key voice in the July 20th anti-government demonstrations. He is now a member of the Congress of Democrats (Code) political party. Last month he was also summoned by Rodney Jose, the Southern Region Police Commissioner, for allegedly inciting disaffection for the President by supporting the ongoing Judicial strike.

In an interview from detention, Kasambara said the whole issue was political in nature. “It happened this afternoon when thugs came to my office but we managed to overpower them and later took them to police,” he told Zodiak Radio yesterday.  Blantyre Police publicist Beatrice Mwachande said that Kasambara has not been arrested rather they were discussing with him details of the alleged plot to attack him. There was no comment on whether or not he was free to walk out of the police station at any time.

Information minister Patricia Kaliati today confirmed the arrest of Kasambara and a number of his associates but accused him of kidnapping and assaulting the men in question. It is alleged in today’s Maravi post when it was put to her that Mr Kasambara intercepted persons in possession of jerry-cans full of fuel who confessed to being hired to deal with his outspoken criticism of the current executive she replied that no person can take the law into their own hands.There was no comment on the use of self defence.

Since July 20th there have been an increasing number of alleged attacks on vocal community members or leaders of civil society organizations who criticize the president or the executive. There were two arson attacks civil society leaders, Rafiq Hajat and McDonald Sembereka who had had their offices and houses torched by persons who were allegedly DPP members. However dialogue between government and civil society is ongoing after they suspended dialogue mid September  due to the increased violence. The talks are facilitated by the United Nations Under-Secretary-General Sahle-Work Zewde.

Mr Kasambara had just given a detailed interview to the Weekend Nation calling for the President to be impeached for failing to run the country correctly.

By Sonya Donnelly, lawyer with the Malawi project

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