Gwanda Chakuamba freed by Malawi court

Saturday, September 17, 2005 A court has freed prominent Malawian politician Gwanda Chakuamba on bail after Chakuamba denied ridiculing Malawi president Bingu wa Mutharika at a political rally. Ridiculing the head of state is a crime in Malawi, with a potential penalty ranging from a $20 fine to three years in prison.

Prosecutor Mcleod Mlonda objected to the ruling, stating that he was worried that as Chakuamba was an influential figure, he would use his freedom to tamper with the evidence. Magistrate David Kadwa disagreed though, stating that he found it unlikely that Chakuamba would be able to interfere with the evidence, as there had been hundreds of witnesses present when the alleged comments were made. For his part, Chakuamba has denied the charges.

Chakuamba was ejected from Malawi's cabinet for allegedly buying a limousine with government funds last week, amid rumours of an internal power struggle. Prosecutors accuse him of labelling the President a "drunkard and a brute" .