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Malawi Court orders immediate release for death row prisoner
After 13 and a half years languishing on death row, Richard Chipoka was resentenced by the Malawi High Court and released immediately. Chipoka was just 21 years old when he was sentenced to the mandatory death penalty, which was subsequently declared unconstitutional in Malawi in the landmark case of Kafantayeni and others v The Attorney General of Malawi.
Chipoka is now the third prisoner, who had remained on death row since the abolition of the mandatory death penalty in 2007, to be resentenced. In April 2015, Aron John and Tony Thobowa’s death sentences were set aside and both will be released in approximately 4 years time. To date, the courts have also resentenced 51 of the 192 prisoners who had already been commuted to life imprisonment post-Kafantayeni, but were still entitled to have their cases considered based on their individual circumstances.
In presiding over Chipoka’s re-sentencing, Justice Nyirenda took into account strong mitigating evidence, which included a psychiatric report and character statements from his village members. He also noted that Chipoka was a young man when the crime was committed and also a first-time offender, and therefore deserved leniency. Chipoka was resentenced to 20 years imprisonment, but taking into account the 13 and a half years he had spent on death row and remission for good behaviour, he was released immediately.
Emile Carreau, a volunteer lawyer from Australia, said, “Richard is over the moon with the result. He has been reunited with his family and received a warm welcome by his village upon his return yesterday. Richard has spoken at length about his intention to find work to support his family and to re-integrate back into his community”.
Watch a short video clip showing Richard Chipoka’s return to his village after 13.5 years, and his community welcoming him back.
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