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Malawi–UPDATE: Human rights defender Mr Ralph Kasambara re-arrested a few hours after being released
On 15 February 2012, just a few hours after his release from detention, Mr Ralph Kasambara was re-arrested at his home in Nyambadwe in Blantyre by 30 police officers.
Ralph Kasambara is a lawyer who served as Attorney General during President Bingu wa Mutharika's first term in office. In recent years he has represented civil society organisations in several court cases and has called for the President's resignation.
The human rights defender was arrested on 13 February 2012, along with five others, on charges of assault after they apprehended a group of men who had come to his legal offices reportedly acting on instructions of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to destroy the offices and to cause harm to Ralph Kasambara. A petrol bomb was found in their possession.
The police claimed that certain procedures had not been followed when the men were released on bail and on that basis they were re-arresting Ralph Kasambara. They did not however, re-arrest the other five men. The police spokesperson for the South, Mr Gondwa, argued that bail could only be granted alongside a release order. Although the Court had ordered Ralph Kasambara's release on bail on conditions the prison officials at Chichiri prison refused to release him on grounds that the court order had arrived too late in the day. He therefore spent a second night in detention. The police argued that because the release order was not properly executed the release was invalid and therefore the human rights defender should be re-arrested.
While he is currently in detention in Blantyre, there are reports that he may be transferred to Lilongwe.
Front Line Defenders expresses concern at the re-arrest and believes that his re-arrest as well as the attempted attack on his offices may be related to his work as a human rights lawyer and his support to civil society organisations.
Front Line Defenders calls on the authorities in Malawi to immediately and unconditionally release Ralph Kasmabara as it believes that his re-arrest is solely motivated by his work in defence of human rights, and to guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Malawi are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
For further information please see Front Line Defenders' urgent appeal dated 15 February 2012 (http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/17415).