Court set to rule on whether Magistrate or High Court should try Mutharika perjury case

The ruling in the perjury case involving former ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) President Peter Mutharika and three others is set  for Wednesday, May 15, 2013 at Lilongwe Magistrate Court.

Chief resident magistrate Ruth Chinangwa will rule whether her court would proceed with hearing the perjury case or 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.

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.

Court bench:Peter Mutharika, Bright Msaka and Jean Kalilani
Court bench:Peter Mutharika, Bright Msaka and Jean Kalilani

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 procesutors insisted that the accused can lawfully be charged with perjury before a magistrate without affecting the process itself.

They pointed out that the discontinuance of the matter in the High Court was done in compliance with the law that requires that it be reported to Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee.

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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