Mystery surrounds the early release from Chichiri Prison in Blantyre of three Asians who were convicted and sentenced to 48 months imprisonment, but ended up staying in jail for only four months.
The three Limbe-based Asians—Hamzar Akbar (alleged masterminder), Shazed Khan and Lehrasib Khan—were arrested alongside three others, who were later acquitted and discharged, for abducting a fellow Asian boy in December 2018.
The Chief Resident Magistrate’s (CRM) Court in Blantyre found the the three guilty, and convicted them on an offence of kidnapping contrary to Section 263 of the Penal Code.
On December 29 2020, the same court sentenced the three to 48 months in jail, ordering that the sentences should commence from the date of their arrest, which was December 13 2018.
But the three were released from prison after serving four months and 12 days, a development Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) and Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) said needs to be probed.
“HRDC demands an investigation on this. Malawians need to know the justification for their release. We need the committee that decides and proposes names for presidential pardons to explain to Malawians the rationale of this selective justice,” said HRDC chairperson Gift Trapence.
On his part, HRCC chairperson Robert Mkwezalamba described the development as “too sad, and smells corruption”.
The human rights campaigner also urged the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services to deport the Asians.
The three are all of Pakistan origin.
When contacted for comment, lawyer Fostino Maele, who represented the three Asians referred Weekend Nation to Malawi Prison Service (MPS).
But MPS spokesperson Chimwemwe Shaba played down foul play on their release, arguing: “Those people were released following normal procedures. There was no foul play, and no fraud; it was just a normal discharge.”
He explained that after the three got 48 months each, their sentences had a remission of 16 months, meaning they had to be in prison for 32 months and calculating from their date of arrests, they were supposed to be released on August 12 2021.
But, according to Shaba, the three were further granted a three-month general amnesty by President Lazarus Chakwera, which applied to all convicted persons in prisons, and got released on May 12 2021.
He could not indicate how many inmates were released during the presidential general amnesty, only saying “there were many and I can’t say the exact figure by heart”.
But Mkwezalamba pushed the blame on the authorities who included the Asians’ particulars on the list of beneficiaries of the general amnesty.
“They need to be investigated as it is not normal. President Lazarus Chakwera may not be to blame… Otherwise, the President should be asked to review his decision and ensure only deserving convicts who had served long benefit from this initiative,” he said.
Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (Cdedi) executive director Sylvester Namiwa queried the qualification of the three for the general amnesty.
When contacted on the issue of the three persons’ legal status in the country, Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services spokesperson Joseph Chauwa promised to revert to Weekend Nation, but he had not done so by the time we went to press.
Presidential press secretary Brian Banda promised to respond to our inquiry but, he too, had not done so as we went to press.