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Mr Gwanda Chakuamba (2003)

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Malawi vice president arrested on treason charges

Blantyre, April 29, 2006

Malawi's embattled Vice President Cassim Chilumpha was arrested on treason charges, after a court prevented the government from firing him, his lawyer and opposition officials have said.

Chilumpha is accused of holding meetings at his official residence in the commercial capital, Blantyre, at which members of his United Democratic Front (UDF) party conspired to topple President Bingu Wa Mutharika's government, attorney Fahad Assani said.

"This is the continuation of political vindictiveness," Assani said.

"There were no such meetings at Mudi House. The meetings that took place there were normal political meetings ... There is nothing wrong for a leader to meet his officials."

Police spokesman Willie Mwaluka confirmed Chilumpha's arrest on Friday night, but declined to comment on the reasons.

The president and vice president, once allies, have waged a political feud since Wa Mutharika resigned from the then-governing UDF to found his own party, accusing his former party of trying to blunt his clampdown on corruption and his moves to modernise the economy.

UDF spokesman Sam Mpasu accused Wa Mutharika of abusing his powers by having Chilumpha arrested.

"The vice president is immune from prosecution while still in office, just like the president," Mpasu said.

"This is clear violation of the laws of Malawi."

Mpasu claimed police had no warrant when they arrived at Chilumpha's residence last night and arrested one of his bodyguards. They later returned for the vice president, forcing a door and windows to gain access to the building, he said.

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