130 prisoners walk to freedom from death row in Kafantayeni project

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    Over 130 prisoners have walked to freedom after they were sentenced to hang since 2007, thanks to Kafantayeni cases resentencing project.

    The man with the amazing smile in the photo above is called Mtilosera. He was sentenced to death in 1993 because he had hit a man with a piece of wood in self-defence after the man had attacked his sister. There is evidence that Mtilosera was just sixteen at the time, only a child. Up until recently everyone convicted of murder automatically received the death penalty, whatever the circumstances. In 2007 the High Court of Malawi ruled that unconstitutional, and ordered that every prisoner who had been sentenced to death that way should be brought back to the court for a full sentence rehearing. By the time of his hearing in November 2015, Mtilosera had spent 22 years in prison. He was resentenced to 20 years, which meant that he was immediately released. The project team brought Mtilosera back to his village, where his family and neighbours ran through the fields to greet him, nearly knocking him over with hugs.

    Peter Chisi, the civil and political director at Malawi Human Rights Commission said the project is going on well.

    The project started in 2007 after a prisoner who was sentenced to death, challenged the verdict and asked for a retrial to which he was succesful.

    The project is being undertaken by the Malawi Human Rights Commission with funding from Tiritonse Fund.

    Chisi said since the project started, 50 prisoners were released immediately, 62 were released immediately as well after it was discovered they overstayed in the jails and 26 were released after retrials.

    He said another meeting was held on Tuesday with High Court officials on the next phase of the retrials which might see another set of prisoners being released.

    Chisi said six cases are pending in the Supreme Court of Appeal.

    He said the project wants a speedy trial of murder cases and is proposing that the murder cases be tried before professional magistrates.

    Chisi said the High Court judges would just be coming in to hand down sentences.

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