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People in Blantyre, Malawi, flee tear gas fired at demonstrators/AFP

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Malawi politicians in ‘coup plot’ charged with treason

People in Malawi, flee tear gas fired at demonstrators/AFP

People in Malawi, flee tear gas fired at demonstrators/AFP

Malawi, Mar 14 – Twelve Malawian politicians who were arrested for plotting to oust President Joyce Banda were formally charged with treason Wednesday, which could carry the death penalty.

The men appeared at Lilongwe Magistrate’s Court amid tight security following rioting over their arrest.

Their lawyer Kalekeni Kaphale said the case would be transferred to the High Court on Thursday for bail hearing, as the “Magistrate’s Court has no jurisdiction over treason cases”.

The plot is alleged to have taken place amid the chaos following president Bingu wa Mutharika’s death on April 5 last year, before Banda, then his deputy, was installed as president after backroom dealings.

Among the arrested is Mutharika’s brother Peter, a former foreign minister whom the deceased president had groomed to succeed him.

Goodall Gondwe, current minister of economic planning, is the only member of Banda’s cabinet arrested.

Gondwe, Peter Mutharika and Bright Msaka, the chief secretary to the government, face additional charges of inciting mutiny, conspiracy to commit a felony and giving false evidence to a commission of inquiry into the death of the late president.

Last week an inquest ruled that Mutharika died of a heart attack on the way to hospital after collapsing at State House.

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