Malawi perjury case for Mutharika and others adjourned to April 29: No plea yet

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) interim president Peter Mutharika, former Cabinet ministers Goodall Gondwe, Jean Kalirani and interdicted Chief Secretary to Government Bright Msaka on Tuesday appeared again  at Lilongwe Magistrate Court on the charge of perjury  but the matter was adjourned to April 29 and the suspects have not yet taking a plea.

The four also face treason charges alongside seven others.

Spokesperson for the Malawi’s Ministry of Justice, Apoche Itimu, said the State dismissed preminary objections of the defence lawyers that the transfer of the case which was already at the High Court to a magistrate court, is ‘breach of justice for our clients’.

“Basically we are contending that there was no abuse of court processes and that we followed the court procedures in discontinuing the matter in the high court and continuing it in the magistrate’s court,” she said.

The filing of the perjury charges marked the beginning of the trial of people suspected to have committed various offences following the death of former president Bingu wa Mutharika.

Mutharika: No plea yet
Mutharika: No plea yet

Ralph Mhone, prosecuting  lawyer for the State,  said in a 29 page submission that there is nothing wrong for the case to be transferred to magistrate, citing several reasons.

He dismissed the defence’s accusation of “executive misconduct of court process”,  saying it is possible for the lower court to hear other charges while the High Court also conduct the trial on others charges.

Mhone cited the case of a serial killer Nachipanti saying his murder charges were tried in high court while the rape case was tried in the magistrate’s court.

He maintained that the State would not abuse court process in the trial.

“The Director of Public Prosecution respected the laws of the land in discontinuing the case in the High Court because it is within his constitutional rights to do so and was required by the constitution to report to the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament within 10 days of his action which he did,” said Mhone.

Titus Mvalo, lawyer in the defence team, asked for time to respond to the submissions of which the Chief Resident Magistrate Ruth Chinangwa adjourned the case to April 29 following a consensus of the two sides.

One of defense lawyers Kalekeni Kaphale told reporters outside the court that they have called for the adjournment because “the prosecution team brought a lot of arguments filling around 29 pages citing case authorities that we haven’t looked at.  So all we are saying is can we have time to study their arguments and give a considered response to their arguments?”

He ruled out fears that the adjournment would delay the case.

“I am here to represent the interests of the accused persons so it’s my mandate that the accused persons to have a fair trial and this means that every time they have to respond and give an address should give a well thought out address and what the adjournment entails is to facilitate that sort of approach to the case,” he said

Perjury is punishable by up to seven years, according to Section 104 of the Penal Code. On the other hand, death is the ultimate punishment for treason in terms of Section 38 of the Penal Code.

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