UN calls for release of Malawi activists

UN calls for release of Malawi activists

The UN has asked authorities in Malawi to free two protest organisers who were arrested on allegations of stealing money from Aids programmes.

Gift Trapence and Macdonald Sembereka were arrested on Tuesday. Both men say it is a ploy by the government to silence them.

They are members of Mango, a network of NGOs in Malawi, as well as the Human Rights Defenders Coalition which has organised countrywide protests since the disputed 21 May election, alleging the vote was tainted by fraud.

President Peter Mutharika has been in power since 2014 and narrowly beat main challenger Lazarus Chakwera by around 159,000 votes in the May election.

Over the weekend, dozens of people were arrested after President Mutharika accused the protesters of plotting against his government.

In a statement, UNAIDS says it “respectfully requests the immediate release” of the two men, and “regrets unnecessarily involving the authorities in Malawi in its outstanding issue with the Mango Network”, adding that both parties “have amicably reached a resolution over the issue.”

According to AFP, a UNAIDS staff member had on 5 July reported an “alleged incident” to the police, but UNAIDS said in its statement that it “has not engaged in any legal action and believes there is no need for any legal action”.

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