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Malawi Vice President charged with treason
by Raphael Tenthani

The Associated Press    Translate This Article
30 April 2006

BLANTYRE, Malawi (AP) - Malawi's vice president, arrested on treason charges, is accused of plotting to assassinate President Bingu wa Mutharika, a top government minister said Saturday.

Vice President Cassim Chilumpha was arrested late Friday, the culmination of a power struggle between Mutharika and his deputy.

Chilumpha's party, the United Democratic Front, said the charges were a ``figment of the imagination.''

``President Mutharika is using instruments of state to harass political opponents,'' said the party's spokesman, Sam Mpasuhe.

Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Henry Phoya told The Associated Press on Saturday that Chilumpha had instructed a prominent businessman ``to engage a professional assassin.''

Phoya said the vice president, the businessman and the would-be assassin had ``extensive discussions'' and that Chilumpha promised the hit man millions of dollars worth of government contracts once he succeeded Mutharika.

Under Malawi law, the vice president automatically takes power once the office of the president is vacant through death, incapacitation or impeachment.

Phoya said the meetings were secretly recorded on tapes he described as ``crystal clear.'' He said the assassination was scheduled for March, but that the would-be assassin backed out.

He said the man would be a key witness against the vice president.

There was no immediate comment Saturday from Chilumpha's lawyer.

Mutharika, a 72-year-old former economist elected in 2004, has won widespread praise from international institutions and donor governments for pushing through economic reforms and clamping down on corruption in this impoverished southern African country. He has alienated many former allies, including his predecessor, Bakili Muluzi, whom he accused of plotting to assassinate him.

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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