Police in the east African state of Malawi have arrested two of its most prominent LGBTI campaigners.
Authorities arrested Gift Trapence on charges of fraud. Trapence heads the LGBTI organizaton, the Center for Development of People (CEDEP).
They also arrested Anglican priest and human rights activist, Reverend Macdonald Sembereka. The two men are members of the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC).
Police raided Trapence’s home, just a week after he staged public demonstrations, protesting the May election results. Trapence has openly criticized and protested against newly reelected President Peter Mutharika.
Recently, the president accused Trapence of trying to create a ‘lawless society’.
Sembereka and Trapence organized the protests on behalf of HRDC, which call for the chairperson of the Malawi Electoral Commission to resign.
The protests descended into violence with some protesters turning to looting, burning tires and fighting police. Police arrested more than 70 people after the clashes.
‘We are not attacking the government; and no one wants to overthrow the government. These peaceful demonstrations are being done to force Jane Ansah to resign,’ Trapence said.
But police accused Trapence of fraud ‘involving millions of Kwacha.’ (hundreds of thousands in US dollars).
The state broadcaster said an international organization filed a complaint against. One report suggested the local UNAIDS bureau filed the complaint, but it has not confirmed that report.about Trapence’s alleged fraudulent activities.
‘National Police Spokesperson James Kadadzera said police have arrested the two for misappropriation of donor aid money, with the complaint being lodged by the United Nations (UN) Agency,’ according to the Malawi Freedom Network.
That some article also said people reacted with surprise at the timing of the two activists.
The MWF wrote: ‘many people, who are wondering as to why, their arrest comes at the pick of their heavy criticism of government, amid dissatisfaction over poor management of elections by the state appointed Charperson of the electoral body, Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC).’
Same-sex activity is illegal in Malawi which has seen a surge in homophobic hate crimes.
Gay Star News has reached out to UNAIDS and the men’s lawyer for comment.