Malawian politicians facing coup bid charges

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MALAWI’S courts have charged 12 top government officials and former Cabinet ministers with treason for an alleged coup plot last year.

The alleged attempt to overthrow the government came after the sudden death of former president Bingu wa Mutharika last April.

The charges were confirmed by the magistrates’ court in the capital, Lilongwe, yesterday, ­following the release of an ­official report into Mutharika’s death which alleged officials tried to prevent then vice-president Joyce Banda becoming president.

An additional charge of inciting mutiny was lodged against Peter Mutharika, the late president’s brother, chief secretary Bright Msaka and economic minister Goodall Gondwe, who was finance minister in the Mutharika administration. The three allegedly urged army commander General Henry Odillo to order “the army to just take over” to prevent Mrs Banda taking over.

Neither Gondwe nor former health minister Jean Kalirani ­appeared in court because they had collapsed in police cells on Monday night and were taken to hospital. One of the 12, Mutharika’s former legal adviser Allan Ntata, has been in Britain since Mutharika’s death.

Eight of the suspects were returned to police cells awaiting bail applications today. Former presidential guard commander Duncan Mwapasa was released on bail.

Hundreds of supporters of the former ruling Democratic Progressive Party, or DPP, including former First Lady Callista Mutharika, thronged the Lilongwe court to give their leaders moral support. But there were no incidents of violence as heavily-armed police officers kept a close watch.