Tony Thobowa, who was given a mandatory sentence of death for an offence committed when he was a juvenile, has been released from prison in Malawi. Mr Thobowa was one of several prisoners who successfully challenged the constitutionality of the mandatory death penalty in Kafantayeni & Ors v Attorney General  MWHC 1. In April 2015 he and his co-accused Aaron John were the first of the Kafantayeni plaintiffs to be resentenced. The Hon. Justice Kamwambe resentenced Mr Thobowa to 20 years’ imprisonment from the date of his arrest, reflecting his age at the time of the offence and the fact that he had already spent many years on death row under an unconstitutional sentence. Mr John was resentenced to 24 years.
Mr Thobowa has now been released on remission, taking into account his good behaviour in prison. He was met by members of his family before returning to his village.
The resentencing submissions were prepared by Joe Middleton and Emile Carreau, an Australian lawyer who has spent several years as a volunteer working on the resentencing hearings in Malawi. Both were instructed by the Death Penalty Project. Mr Thobowa and Mr John were represented at the resentencing hearing by John-Gift Mwakhwawa, a former President of the Malawi Law Society and Doughty Street African Scholar. Mr Mwakhwawa also acted for the plaintiffs in Kafantayeni, in which the legal submissions were prepared by Joe Middleton on the instructions of the Death Penalty Project. All the lawyers acted pro bono.