Ex-president under house arrest for treason

BLANTYRE - Police in Malawi were yesterday set to quiz former president Bakili Muluzi over allegations of a coup plot hatched by his party after the ex-leader was placed under house arrest at the weekend.

BLANTYRE - Police in Malawi were yesterday set to quiz former president Bakili Muluzi over allegations of a coup plot hatched by his party after the ex-leader was placed under house arrest at the weekend.

Muluzi, who ruled between 1994 and 2004 after wresting power from dictator Kamuzu Banda in the country's first democratic elections, was arrested at the country's main airport in Lilongwe after returning from a holiday in Britain on Sunday. The former president recently made a comeback after being picked as his party's presidential candidate ahead of elections next year.

"He will be questioned by police over the coup plot," home affairs minister Ernest Malenga said yesterday. Muluzi's lawyer Fahad Assani said the ex-leader was "arrested on treason charges".

Muluzi will be questioned at his residence in Limbe, a satellite town of the commercial capital Blantyre, where yesterday morning a dozen armed policemen cordoned off the road leading to the house.

An AFP correspondent saw policemen manning a roadblock leading to the house and pedestrians who approached were chased away.

Muluzi told a private radio station that he had argued with police on why he was being arrested. He was flown in a military plane to Blantyre where police raided his residence to "search for arms", Muluzi said. "I allowed them to search everywhere, but they found nothing," he added.

Muluzi has said he is not a "violent person to take over government by force". The ex-leader handed power to his chosen successor Bingu wa Mutharika in 2004, and the two have been at loggerheads since the current president ditched Muluzi's former ruling party to form his own.

Mutharika recently voiced fears of a plot to topple him, saying two weeks ago he had received intelligence that Muluzi, his chief opponent in elections next year, was "planning to remove me through Section 65". The president was referring to a controversial constitutional clause which has sparked heated debate because it allows the speaker of parliament to sack lawmakers who have crossed the floor. - Sapa-AFP

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