Malawi govt, police under pressure to release American national ‘Abiti Manice’; Accused her of insulting President on social media

By Alick Mhango

United States (US) embassy in Lilongwe has said they are demanding information in the arrest of social media activist and vocal supporter of the United Transformation Movement (UTM)  Manice Hale, popularly known as Manice Abiti William Dawood on Facebook,  who was arrested at Kamuzu Inernational Airport Tuesday.

On Tuesday US public affairs at the American Embassy, Douglous Johnston, said  they learnt that Hale,  an American citizen, had been arrested while  she was about to catch a flight back  to  the US  where she is based and they are demanding  information on her  detention.

He said American Embassy’s consular officer visited Hale  following her arrest.
“We have asked Malawian authorities for information and we are waiting for them to provide further information about Mrs Hale’s arrest,” said Johnston.

Police have accused Hale,  who has been attending some rallies by Vice President Saulos Chilima led United Transformation Movement, for  insulting President Peter Mutharika.

Her lawyer Nicely Msowoya confirmed that she has been  charged with insulting the President of the Republic, particulary through her Facebook posts.
The lawyer said Police read out several Facebook posts on her page when reading out charges to her.

The law of insulting the President has been subject of debate in recent days with legal experts saying its archaic and inconsistent with the democratic culture  while rights activist say it is “draconian.”

Hale during an interview with Times TV last week claimed she is related to the Mutharika, saying her mother was a sister to the late first lady Ethel Nyoni Mutharika, who was the late president Bingu wa Mutharika’s first wife.

Meanwhile, in solidarity witth US-UTM  counterparts and all members of UTM in Malawi and  abroad, UTM-UK wing strongly condemns the arrest ‘Abiti Mnaice’.

In a statement issued by UTM-UK interim chairperson Kondi Bowoke Munthali and interim secretary Jubie Bagus, they are   calling on Malawi government to release Abiti Manice Danwood immediately.

“UTM UK is appalled and disgusted that at a  time when world leaders are advocating for no  violence against women, Abiti Manice has been arrested for no apparent reason by the DPP government.

“It is especially appalling and particularly disgraceful to see violence at the airport  perpetrated by a law enforcement officer against a female traveller whose only crime is that she does not support the  DPP regime. UTM UK  call this arrest deplorable and a set back to the freedom of choice and expression which is everyone’s fundamental right according to the constitution,” reads the statement.

Hale who was kept in an unknown location by police last night, is expected to appear in court Wednesday to be formally charged.