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Lilongwe court releases 17 presiding officers on bail

The Chief Resident Magistrate Court in Lilongwe has released on bail 17 presiding officers who were working in polling centers during the May 2019 Tripartite Elections.

They were arrested 2 days ago.

The 17, who also work as teachers in government schools within Lilongwe, have been charged with offenses of falsifying documents relating to elections. Particulars of the offenses are that in the teachers, as presiding officers falsified tally sheet figures for election results using Tippex.

Appearing before Chief Resident Magistrate Patrick Chirwa, the accused have all pleaded not guilty.

The state has since told the court that it will parade 16 witnesses, and needs an adjournment for three weeks to prepare disclosures and submit to the defense.

Considering that the accused have been kept in custody for two days already, the defense asked for their clients to be released on bail.

“It appears the state still has more investigations to undertake and disclosures to make. We pray that the accused be released on bail since bail is a right and the accused are Malawians working as teachers for the government,” explained Powell Nkhutabasa, lawyer for the accused presiding officers.

The state in response did not object to the application by defense hoping that if granted bail, the individuals will abide by bail conditions.

Chief Resident Magistrate Patrick Chirwa while granting bail advised the accused to each present before the court a cash bond of K50,000, one surety with non-cash bond of K100,000, must report to police once every fortnight and inform the police every time they intend to leave Lilongwe.

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12 of the 17 presiding officers appeared before the court first in the morning of the day while the other five appeared before the court separately in the afternoon.

The case is expected to resume once disclosures are submitted by the state to the defense.

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