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Human rights | Politics

Ex Malawian president takes another shot at presidency

afrol News, 30 September - Former Malawi president Bakili Muluzi was practically freed by High court on his treason bail conditions, effectively clearing his way for another shot at presidency.

Dr Muluzi is main challenger president Bingu wa Mutharika will face in presidential polls, which he will contest on banner of UDF and its alliance partners.

He began his door-to-door campaign yesterday in his stronghold political base of eastern region, to entice electorate to register their names in voter's roll.

He applied to High Court through his lawyers Fahad Assani and Jai Banda to be released unconditionally in coup fantasy charges and have his bail conditions cleared out.

Application followed State's failure to start treason prosecution on the former president three months after his arrest on allegation of plotting to overthrow ruling government.

Delivering his ruling, Judge Anacklet Chipeta removed all bail conditions for Dr Muluzi, which required him to report to police the last Friday of every month; inform Commissioner of Police whenever he is leaving Blantyre city and to petition High Court when going outside Malawi.

But judge Chipeta did not dismiss case giving state, room to commence proceedings when they so wish.

Dr Muluzi's lawyer, Mr Assani said he was happy with ruling.

"Basically, Dr Muluzi is virtually a free man. He can move around unimpeded," said Mr Assani.

Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Wezi Kayira indicated that a decision whether or not to charge Mr Muluzi and other suspects connected to coup fantasy would be made by state.

UDF and its alliance spokesperson Humphrey Mvula reacted to freeing of Mr Muluzi as a welcome development for presidential bid.

"The partial freeing of Dr Muluzi has somewhat leveled political playing field as we advance towards 2009 elections," said Mr Mvula.

"What may not be actually settled is fact that treason charge remains a political charge and fear we have it will be dragged back as an impediment to smooth flow to his presidential bid," said opposition alliance publicist.

"One hopes that court ruling will be able to provide accurate safeguards to political process. UDF and Alliance partners would have preferred a complete overhaul of charge because it was frivolous, made of politics and everybody know," said Mr Mvula.

He said treason charge was meant to stigmatise presidential candidate who is believed to be next Malawi leader in May 2009.

He said court ruling was a boost coming after another High Court determination stopping security forces from banning whistle stop tours party has lined-up to address with Dr Muluzi.

Judge Rezine Mzikamanda will nonetheless start hearing a judicial review on 20 October regarding enjoyment of political rights such as freedom of assembly, association and freedom to canvass for political views.

Dr Muluzi was Malawi's president from 1994 to 2004, ruling in an authoritarian way.

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