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Last Updated: Friday, 7 January, 2005, 13:40 GMT
Malawi 'death plot' group freed
Bingu wa Mutharika
President Mutharika was reported to have been furious
Malawi's president has pardoned a group of politicians charged with treason over an alleged plot to kill him.

Three members of the ruling party were accused of taking guns to a meeting with the president in order to kill him. A fourth was arrested with knives.

President Bingu wa Mutharika said he had forgiven them to bring about reconciliation within his party.

But he stressed he still believed they had intended to kill him. The four have now been released.

The BBC's Raphael Tenthani in the capital, Lilongwe, says there has been a growing rift between the president and leaders of the United Democratic Front (UDF) over his anti-corruption drive.

The talks on 3 January were intended to end the rift, but were abandoned after weapons were discovered.

Deputy transport minister Roy Cumsay, senior party member Harry Thomson and MP Alfred Mwechumu were charged with treason on Wednesday.

They said in a statement they regularly carried firearms for self-defence.

A fourth politician was arrested on Thursday after knives were found in his car.

On Friday, President Mutharika ordered the immidiate dissolution of the National Intelligence Bureau (NIB), amid allegations that some intelligence officers were involved in the alleged foiled assassination plot against the president.

'Outrageous accusation'

Mr Mutharika told a news conference in Lilongwe on Thursday that according to information received in advance, someone was to "say something rude to the president to disrupt the meeting".

"In the fracas, someone would fire in the air and then someone was also probably assigned to fire at me," he said.

He also accused former President Bakili Muluzi of involvement in the plot.

But Mr Muluzi's spokesman firmly rejected the charge as "an outrageous accusation".

"The former president would never, ever plan to kill his own boy," Sam Mpasu was quoted as saying by AP news agency.

"However, the UDF party will be meeting to discuss the issue."

Since Mr Mutharika's election last May, several top UDF leaders have been arrested in connection with corruption and fraud scandals.


SEE ALSO:
Malawi president gains majority
18 Jun 04 |  Africa
Country profile: Malawi
09 Nov 04 |  Country profiles



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