Supreme Court Judge opts out of Kasambara’s bail appeal

Former Minister of Justice Ralph Kasambara currently being remanded at Zomba Maximum security prison indicted for an attempted murder of Treasury Budget Director, Paul Mphwiyo has had his appeal the bail application at the Supreme Court of Appeal in Blantyre  delayed after the Judge who was assigned has recused himself.

Private lawyer, Kasambara, who at one time also doubled his portfolio in the Joyce Banda administration as Attorney General and Justice Minister, last week, lodged an appeal at the Supreme Court of Appeal in the commercial city of Blantyre after Lilongwe High Court registry denied him bail and ruled that he remain in custody for further 30 days.

Nyasa Times understands that Justice Nyirenda who was supposed to hear Kasambara’s bail application at the country’s highest Court of Law felt that it was not appropriate for him to preside over the case because he comes from the same district as the accused person.

High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal spokesperson Joseph Chigona confirmed to Nyasa Times in a telephone interview that it is true that Justice Andrew Nyirenda recused himself from Kasambara’s bail appeal application.

Kasambara: Remains on remand

Said Chigona: “I can confirm that it is true that Kasambara’s case has changed hands at Supreme Court as the judge who was assigned to the case thought it was not right for him to handle the matter because he comes from the same district as Mr Kasambara

“And I can also confirm that the case for the former Justice Minister’s appeal for bail application has now been reassigned to Justice Dr. Jane Ansah,” said Chigona.

Asked if the Kasambara’s appeal in the bail application to the Supreme Court will drag as a result of the development, Chigona said Justice Nyirenda’s recuse will not affect the proceedings of the appeal in the bail application.

“It won’t take long before Justice Ansah hears the appeal of the bail application. It is only a bail application and therefore there is nothing that will affect the time Kasambara’s appeal in the bail application case,” said Chigona.

Ministry of Justice spokesperson Apoche Itimu confirmed that lawyers for Kasambara applied to the Supreme Court to seek a hearing on his bail application

“We can confirm that we have indeed received files of an application at the Supreme Court by Mr. Kasambara’s lawyers. The file is at Lilongwe Registry but I cannot right now give grounds which they are advancing,” Itimu told the local media.

Kasambara through his lawyer Lusungu Gondwe in his appeal to the Supreme Court contends that the High Court’s decision to keep him under police custody for 30 days from the date of the ruling even after Judge Esmie Chombo had already decided that the appellant be granted bail is wrong.

“The learned judge erred in law and in fact in ordering that the Appellant (Kasambara) remain in custody for further 30 days when the Director of Public Prosecutions had not adduced any evidence or made any allegation of, inter alia, likelihood that the Appellant, if released on bail, would attempt to influence or intimidate witnesses,” reads Kasambara’s application in part.

Kasambara, arrested on November 8 2013 at his Area 10 residence in Lilongwe, is accused in connection to the shooting of Mphwiyo.

President Joyce Banda, who Kasambara has named as one of his witness in the matter, is on record as publicly saying the shooting of the budget director was linked to his efforts to fight corruption.

But in a twist of events, President Banda later categorically denied having any knowledge or having said that she knows the people behind the shooting of her purportedly acclaimed corruption-buster  Mphwiyo who was shot three times in his face at the gates of his residence in Area 43 a low density suburb in Lilongwe.

Mphwiyo who was appointed as Budget Director just two months before his shooting in September returned home from South Africa on Thursday where he underwent a series of surgical operations including a face reconstruction.

Apart from Kasambara four other people were also arrested in connection with Mphwiyo’s attempted murder three of which have been granted bail by the High Court in Lilongwe.

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