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Malawi Prison wardens accused of stripping naked and beating up a convict

Blantyre, Malawi, March 3 (MaraviPost) _ A convict at Chichiri Prison, serving a seven-year sentence for armed robbery, was on Tuesday stripped naked and dragged on the ground for protesting intrusive search, his wife has alleged.

But prison authorities say this account was exaggerated, saying the convict is a violent habitual criminal.
The convict, Edwin Mcfare, 34, was being brought back from Blantyre Magistrates’ Court where he is answering another armed robbery charge when the incident allegedly happened.

“They were searching the prisoners as is the tradition before sending them back inside their cells but my husband complained that the search was intrusive as the warders were nearly stripping him naked in front of other people, including women,” Alice Mcfare told in an interview.

She said Care’s complaint angered the warders who beat him up, stripped him naked and dragged him on the ground to his cell. They handcuffed him and put him in leg irons. 

Alice identified the wardens as a Mkwaila and a Chipofya. Well-wishers alerted her about the incident. Alice said she went to the prison on Wednesday to lodge a complaint with the Officer-in-Charge, a Mrs. Nakupukula.

“The OC didn’t believe my story, saying that was not prison procedure, but when she called for my husband he came still naked and in leg irons,” she recounted.

Alice said Nakupukula ordered the removal of the leg irons and apologized for what had happened.

“She asked me not to tell anybody but I believe my husband’s rights were violated,” she said.

Alice went to the High Court to lodge a complaint but she claimed she was rebuffed.

Malawi Prison Service spokesman Evance Phiri said it is wrong for warders to search prisoners in front of other people.
“I am not aware of this particular incident but we will investigate this and, if true, we will take disciplinary action,” he said.

Phiri said, according to the Prisons Act, prisoners have rights that have to be respected. He said these rights include the right to dignity which entails that male prisoners must be searched by male warders and female prisoners must be searched by female warders.

“And the searches must not be in front of other people, certainly not in front of women – even the wife – as you allege,” he said.
But Regional Commanding Officer for the South Little Ntengano told maravipost Alice’s account of what happened was grossly exaggerated.
“Mcfare is a habitual criminal,” he said. “Warders found K3, 000 on him which he wanted to take into the cell. This is not allowed so when they confiscated the money he started insulting the warders to intimidate them.”

Ntengano said when Mcfare became violent the warders handcuffed and leg ironed him as per procedure.
“Handcuffs are not found in hospitals, they are found in prisons for such incidents,” he said.

Ntengano described Mcfare as one of the ‘kabwerebweres’ who are so familiar with prison life that they want to be given VIP treatment. He said he even insults his wife when she visits him to bring him food.

“You tend to wonder what is it with this guy who can use expletives on a woman who has come to bring him food,” he said.
The regional prisons boss defended the warders, saying they used minimum acceptable measures to contain Mcfare.

“We leg iron violent prisoners to contain them as well as a means of punishment,” he said. “He was not beaten or dragged on the ground; people tend to exaggerate these things to gain sympathy.”

But when contacted again yesterday Alice insisted her husband was assaulted by the warders.

“I am coming from seeing him at the moment,” he said. “He still has scars from the assault; he was actually showing the scars to his children.”
Alice said after being rebuffed by the High Court he approached the Prison Welfare Committee member Rev. Fr. Piergiorgio Gamba.
“Fr. Gamba assured me he would visit the prison to investigate the incident,” she said.-maravipost

Ufulu means 'Freedom' or unschackled - Ufulu is a reporter at the Maravi Post since Inception. He has a Degree in Computer Science and has reported on Technical and development issues.
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