Malawi Magistrate rules High Court should try Mutharika perjury case

Lilongwe Magistrate Court has ruled that the perjury case involving former ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) President Peter Mutharika and three others should be referred back to Judge Ivy Kamanga of the High Court who is hearing other charges of treason.

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 DPP secretary general.

Chief Resident Magistrate Ruth Chinangwa says the lower court has no powers to rule whether the perjury (lying under oath) case should be heard at the lower court.

Magistrate Chinangwa has therefore given the State 30 days to appeal against the ruling.

Her determination sparked wild scenes of celebration by DPP supporters.

Peter Mutharika: Wins first round

Peter Mutharika: Wins first round

They defence lawyers  questioned the motive behind the State’s insistence to prosecute a perjury case against the four at the magistrate’s court while they also answer other charges including treason in the High Court.

They asked the court to throw out the case as a way of protecting the suspects as it was clear that the criminal charges against them were meant to “eliminate political enemies.”

However, State prosecutors – hired from private practice  former Directors of Public Prosecutions Ishmael Wadi and Fahad Assani and  lawyer Ralph Mhone who have since  submitted a combined bill of K24 million for working on the case – insisted that the accused can lawfully be charged with perjury before a magistrate without affecting the process itself.

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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