Banda in court on murder charges

Blantyre (Reuter) - Malawi's former president, Kamuzu Hastings Banda, who ruled for three decades from 1964, and his former close aide John Tembo, both charged with murdering their political opponents, will appear in court today to apply for bail .

The director of public prosecution, Kamdoni Nyasulu, said Mr Banda, as well as Mr Tembo and two policemen would appear at Zomba magistrate court, 45 miles south east of Blantyre.

The four have been charged with eight counts each of murder and conspiracy to murder arising from the 1983 deaths of four senior politicians..

After the commission made its findings public, the government placed Mr Banda under house arrest.Mr Nyasulu would not comment on whether the four defendants could be granted bail. But lawyers for Mr Banda and Mr Tembo said failure to do so would be inconsistent with the constitution . "The aim of detention should not be to punish the accused," one lawyer said. "If the accused are given bail and are later proved guilty on the charges, they can be imprisoned again."

Mr Banda, was ousted in Malawi's first multi-party elections last May.

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