Human Rights Watch, an international human rights organisation, has joined calls for the immediate release of three Malawian activists saying they have been arrested on trumped up charges.

Southern African Director for Human Rights Watch, Dewa Mavhinga, has demanded the Peter Mutharika administration to immediately free Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) vice chairperson Gift Trapence, member MacDonald Sembereka and chairperson Timothy Mtambo.

“Malawian authorities should immediately release from custody and end the harassment of civil society activists Gift Trapence, MacDonald Sembereka and Timothy Mtambo detained by the police in Lilongwe on trumped up charges,” said Mavhinga.

He also noted that the activists received death threats from senior ruling party leaders and were described as terrorist by the state broadcaster, Malawi Broadcasting Corporation.

Mtambo, Sembereka and Trapence are being accused of mobilising Malawians to commit a crime after they announced plans to hold demonstrations at state residences on March 25 this year.

On Wednesday, President Peter Mutharika said human rights groups demanding the release of the activists should exercise fairness in their criticisms.

He said there was no way one would describe the activities of the HRDC as human rights because they have been destructive to the country.

“What they are doing is not human rights, it’s criminal.

“I am an international law expert and I have been teaching human rights law at reputable universities in the world and I know what human rights are,” Mutharika said.

Meanwhile, a court in Lilongwe is today expected to deliver its ruling on a bail application by the three activists.

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