Masangwi, others granted bail: Chasowa murder trial Malawi

The High Court in Blantyre has granted bail to DPP Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) regional governor for the South Noel Masangwi and five others  on their connection with the murder of Polytechnic student Robert Chasowa last year.

The High Court judge, Sylvester Kalembera, apart from Masangwi, has granted bail to DPP youth director Lewis Ngalande, Frank Julius, Sam Chulu, Dolph Geoffrey Botomani and Petros Tembo.

There was tension at the court as the premise was heavily guarded by armed police officers and entry was restricted as people were searched and others were refused admission into the court premises.

DPP supporters who converged at the court were also barred from witnessing the court proceedings and were forced to congregate at the main entrance into Chichiri Trade Fair ground where they spent time chanting anti-government songs.

Lawyer Chancy Gondwe speaking to Leston Mulli after the ruling.-Photo by Francis Mpheya, Mana

Inside the court, about four armed Police Mobile officers manned the entrance and some members of the press as well other people who wanted to witness the case were denied entry.

Court Ruling

Making his ruling in a jam-parked court, Kalembera said it would be unfair to deny the suspects bail as the State has not specified as to when the case should start as it was not yet through with investigations.

Kalembera said despite the case attracting serious punishment of death, it would be necessary to consider the accused bail, arguing a year has elapsed since Chasowa’s death and that there is no evidence proving that the named suspects were ones responsible for the alleged murder.

“It is the law of the court to punish the applicants. The accused should not remain in custody waiting for their trial unless the State justify why the applicants must remain in custody…I therefore grant bail to the applicants on following conditions,” Kalembera said in his ruling.

Bail bond

The judge ordered Masangwi and his alleged accomplices, who were not present at the court, to pay a bail bond of K200, 000 each, provide two sureties each and every surety is expected to provide a bond of K250, 000.

The court has also demanded the suspects to report to Southern Region Police Headquarters twice a week-on Mondays and Fridays-surrender their travelling documents and must not leave Blantyre without court’s permission.

Meanwhile the court is expected to make another ruling on bail application on four others, Boxing promoter, Mike “Bangwe One’ Chitenje, Police constable, Stanford Horea, Stoni John and Isaac ‘Mtopwa One’ Osman this afternoon.

Masangwi, Ngalande, Julius and Chulu are being presented in the case by lawyer Kalekeni Kaphale while Botomani and Tembo are represented by Ambokile Salimu. Lawyer Chance Gongwe is representing the four others.

Suspects

Chasowa was found dead on the college campus last year and a report by inquiry committee set by President Joyce Banda has implicated about 14 people include some DPP officials.

Masangwi, whosurrendered himself to police last Wednesday and others were on Thursday last week formally charged at Blantyre Magistrate Court with murder – which carries a maximum sentence of death.

Police said so far 10 people have been arrested in connection with the murder.

Geoff Botomani, 28, and his accomplice Petros Tembo,30, were nabbed by police on July 17 on allegations that they took part in the murder of Chasowa and have remained on remand since then.

Background

Chasowa, who studied engineering, was found dead at a college cumpus Blantyre in September last year. Police said he had jumped to his death from a five-storey building and produced bogus suicide notes as evidence.

But a Justice Andrew Nyirenda-led inquiry ordered by President Joyce Banda, who succeeded Bingu wa Mutharika after his death in April, rule that Chasowa had in fact been murdered.
President Banda promised that the culprits would “face the full wrath of the law”.

Chasowa, the chairman of a student activist group, Youth for Democracy (YFD), had published anti-Mutharika government leaflets before his death.

DPP supporters near the court.-Photo by Francis Mphweya-MANA.

Lawyer Chancy Gondwe speaking to Leston Mulli after the ruling.-Photo by Francis Mpheya, Mana

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