Malawi court suspends Mutharika’s perjury case: Justice Mwaungulu orders judicial review

The High Court has suspended the perjury case involving former ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) President Peter Mutharika and three others pending a judicial review.

Mutharika has applied to court for judicial review and High Court Judge Dustan Mwaungulu granted the order.

This was after Attorney General (AG) Anthony Kamanga moved the  High Court to review Magistrate  Ruth Chinangwa’s determination, referred back to Judge Ivy Kamanga of the High Court who is hearing other charges of treason, arguing that the lower court ‘s ruling had erred on a matter of law.

On May 21, 2013, Kamanga wrote the registrar of the High Court in Lilongwe instructing the registrar on a number of grounds and asked the court to call and examine a subordinate court record for the proceedings and to exercise its powers of review.

Mutharika: Judicial review

Mutharika: Judicial review

“I sincerely pray that the High Court will call for and examine the record for the criminal proceedings for the case herein and further that in exercising its powers of review the High Court will find it appropriate to hear the parties,” AG wrote according to court documents.

But Mutharika in an affidavit filed in support of a notice of application for leave to apply for judicial review, described the AG’s conduct as “overreaching and usurping” the authority of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Bruno Kalemba whose office is prosecuting the case.

Justice Mwaungulu duly granted Mutharika the order for judicial review on Wednesday

“The decision of the respondent (Kamanga) to move the High Court by way of letter dated 21st May 2013 to call for the record and review of the criminal cases….before the Chief Resident Magistrate Court sitting at Lilongwe and the conduct of the Registrar of the High Court…be and is hereby stayed pending determination of the judicial review herein,” Justice Mwaungulu said in his determination.

Justice Mwaungulu has instructed to the case that the application for judicial review should be made by originating motion to be heard by panel of three judges in open court.

The other accused answering the perjury charges are former chief secretary to the government Bright Msaka, former Cabinet ministers Goodall Gondwe and Jean Kalilani, who is also Democratic Progressive Party secretary general.

The State has engaged three private practice lawyers to help it try the case . Prosecution team of two former directors of public prosecutions Fahad Assani and Ishmael Wad, and Ralph Mhone  initially  submitted a combined bill of K24 million for working on the case.

Background

The four accused are alleged to have lied under oath and attempted to block Pres. Joyce Banda from ascending to the office of the president after the death of Pres. Bingu wa Mutharika in April last year.

Besides the four, the other accused in the treason case include former Cabinet minister Henry Mussa, former deputy ministers Nicholas Dausi and Kondwani Nankhumwa, former deputy chief secretary to the government Necton Mhura, former presidential guard commander Duncan Mwapasa and the late Bingu wa Mutharika’s former legal adviser Allan Ntata.

Whereas Mwapasa is yet to be charged, Ntata was charged in absentia as he is reported to be lecturing at a university in United Kingdom.

The 12 are facing different charges in relation to the roles they played during the death of Bingu wa Mutharika in April last year and in handling the transition. They are accused of trying to circumvent constitutional order to block Banda, Mutharika’s estranged State vice-president then, from ascending to the presidency after the death.

The arrests followed the release of a report by a Commission of Inquiry appointed by President Banda to investigate the death of the President and also issues surrounding the succession.

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