LILONGWE, June 8 (Xinhua) -- Opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) leader Lazarus Chakwera on Saturday called for the immediate and unconditional release of protestors who were arrested on Thursday in Lilongwe for what the Malawi police called "inciting violence".
The police arrested 18 MCP followers including a member of parliament during "peaceful" demonstrations against the results of May 21 presidential elections where the incumbent Peter Mutharika was declared winner.
But the MCP leader told journalists at a press conference held at the party's headquarters in Lilongwe that his party and its followers shall not be intimidated by the police and that the arresting of the 18 "peaceful" protestors was against law.
"Section 38 of the Constitution of Malawi states categorically that 'Every person shall have the right to assemble and demonstrate with others peacefully and unarmed'," Chakwera said.
He continued: "I, therefore, strongly condemn the arrest of peaceful protestors and demand their immediate and unconditional release."
But the MCP leader said if any protestors would be using violent means to achieve their ends or infringing on the rights of others, the police should enforce the law and bring them to book without using violence or force.
He condemned the arrests and shooting of unarmed civilians with rubber bullets and teargas and called for an immediate stop.
According to the MCP leader, his party followers will continue to hold peaceful demonstrations until the verdict of the petition the party presented to the court is reached.
In his petition to the country's high court, Chakwera wants the May 21 presidential results nullified due to what he described as overwhelming evidence of rigging that the party has gathered.
In his address to the nation which was broadcast on the state radio and TV, Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) Thursday, President Mutharika accused the opposition leader of inciting violence through the protests that are now spreading to some districts across the country.
Mutharika warned that he had ordered the country's security agents including the police and the army to arrest anyone found perpetrating violence in the country.
But in his statement during the Saturday press briefing, Chakwera said he would continue to use "peaceful and lawful means" to stand up for justice for all Malawians.
"If doing so puts my own freedom and life at risk, so be it; I would gladly surrender all that I am and have that is good in this world to see Malawi and its people freed," said Chakwera. "And no matter what anyone says, Malawi's freedom is coming."